What happens to Fred in The Old Curiosity Shop?

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Fred's major goal in The Old Curiosity Shop is to get his sister Nell to marry his friend Dick Swiveller so that he can inherit the fortune he erroneously believes his grandfather possesses. While Fred is a major force in the early part of the novel, by the time Nell...

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Fred's major goal in The Old Curiosity Shop is to get his sister Nell to marry his friend Dick Swiveller so that he can inherit the fortune he erroneously believes his grandfather possesses. While Fred is a major force in the early part of the novel, by the time Nell and her grandfather are on the run from Quilp, he becomes much less of a threat to them.

At the end, it is revealed that Fred drowned in the Seine after getting into a fight, having gone abroad on the Continent for some time:

For the young man himself, he rioted abroad for a brief term, living by his wits—which means by the abuse of every faculty that worthily employed raises man above the beasts, and so degraded, sinks him far below them. It was not long before his body was recognised by a stranger, who chanced to visit that hospital in Paris where the drowned are laid out to be owned; despite the bruises and disfigurements which were said to have been occasioned by some previous scuffle. But the stranger kept his own counsel until he returned home, and it was never claimed or cared for.

This end is poetically appropriate for Fred's scheming, faithless character. Unlike Nell, who dies with her grandfather to claim her body, Fred has no one. He dies alone and in disgrace, in a foreign land without friends or family.

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