Explore how Dickens depicts the evil aspects of human nature with particular reference to the two characters Sikes and Fagin and the social conditions in which they live. Fagin (THE JEW) Fagin is a master criminal whose specialty is selling stolen property. He employs a gang of thieves, some of them ignorant children and he is always looking for new recruits. That’s why he is jubilant when the Dodger brings Oliver home. He finds out later from Monks, that he can make a profit if he turns Oliver into a criminal. Hearing this he’s even more pleased.
Dickens describes in detail as we have seen in the film, Fagin’s unwashed body, his long matted red hair, filthy clothing, broken teeth, and black fingernails. So he doesn’t look like a nice person. However some people argue that he looks like a magician. It could have been Dickens attention to make Fagin look like a magician, as a magician is often related to mystery. From what I have read, Fagin’s character to me seems to be very mysterious. His actions aren’t very pleasant. When he meets stronger men, he fawns over them. He has a habit of calling people “my dear” and when he plots against the weak, he is ruthless and greedy.
The fact that he is called the Jew would to some indicate that he was greedy and unsympathetic. But to me however Fagin’s Jewishness means something else – that he has been a victim of prejudice. I feel some sympathy for Fagin because he’s just making a living the best way he can. The reason for Fagin being a criminal is in my eyes that the slum environment in which he lives have bred him to crime. Fagin is a man of considerable intelligence, though corrupted by his self-interest. He feels a fleeting moment of pity for Oliver before he sends him off to be Sikes’ accomplice.
His conscience bothers him after he is condemned to hang. He has a wry sense of humour and an ability to understand people. In the start of the novel Fagin treats Oliver and the other boys nearly as well as a typical father might treat his sons, but these fake familial relationships are built primarily around exploitation and not out of true concern or selfless interest. When the reader is first introduced to Fagin he seems to be a very nice and caring person with a lot of charisma around him. Then as the novel develops, Dickens via his writing makes the reader feel uncomfortable with Fagins character.
His charisma starts to faint as the reader slowly starts to discover the dark sides of Fagin. Bill Sikes (SYKES) Sikes is a bully, a robber, and a murderer. Because he works with Fagin, they are often described as the two faces of evil in the novel: Fagin plans the crimes; Sikes carries them out. The scenes in which Sikes brutally beats Nancy to death and then accidentally hangs himself in his frenzy to escape her haunting eyes are, for me the most frightening moments in the novel. It’s possible that Sikes’ evil is so frightening because it is so physical.
From the beginning, he is compared to a beast. He uses violence to bully, intimidate, and injure other people like Nancy, Oliver and even Fagin. Sikes seems to lack much power to reason. He can’t figure out Nancy’s behaviour, and he doesn’t realise Fagin is manipulating him. The only explanation for Sikes’ behaviour being so brutal is the brutalizing conditions of the slums in which he lives. Sykes’s physical body is not described very well in the book, but from what I have seen in the film I can conclude that he is a person, who looks very mysterious.
I think Dickens have made Sikes a mysterious character in order to entertain the reader, because when he wrote Oliver Twist it was written as a serial in a newspaper. Bull’s-eye Bill Sikes’s dog, Bull’s-eye, has “faults of temper in common with his owner” and is a symbolic emblem of his owner’s character. The dog reflects and represents Sikes’s own animal-like brutality. After Sikes murders Nancy, Bull’s-eye comes to represent Sikes’s guilt. The dog leaves bloody footprints on the floor of the room where the murder is committed.
Not long after, Sikes becomes desperate to get rid of the dog, convinced that the dog’s presence will give him away. Yet, just as Sikes cannot shake off his guilt, he cannot shake off Bull’s-eye. Bull’s-eye’s name also conjures up the image of Nancy’s eyes, which haunts Sikes until the bitter end and eventually causes him to hang himself. From the first time the reader is introduced to Sikes, he is via Dickens writing shown to be an evil character and this is developed throughout the novel.
So we as the reader come to dislike Sikes because Dickens always shows him from his evil side. Who is the most evil one? Fagin and Sikes are often described as the two faces of evil in this novel, But their evilness is however very different. Sykes’s evilness is very brutal, while Fagin’s evil is not brutal but instead he pulls the strings in order to make Sikes commit the crimes. He is not physical dangerous and violent, however his plans do bring around some very evil actions and pain to people, especially Oliver.
So now the question arises, what made Fagin and Sikes become so evil. I think they became so evil because they are both result of the environment in which they lived, probably from their childhood. This environment known as a slum is characterised by unhygienic living conditions and unimaginable poverty. So they have from their childhood never seen the civilised world. They only experienced the problems which you face in a slum and never experienced any love or affection. So as a consequence of this they became these evil people, which Dickens has described in the book.