Bumbling Figures, Blundering Society: Fagin, Bumble, and the Problem of Evil in Dickens' Oliver Twist
Dickens' Oliver Twist , which ultimately celebrates a protagonist who journeys from innocence to experience without capitulating to the evil forces that hinder his progress, addresses the pervasive problem of evil in society and human nature. Dickens presents two dimensions of evil in Oliver's world through the characters of Fagin, the old Jew, and Mr. Bumble, the parish beadle. By transferring Fagin's criminality to the selfish, hypocritical Bumble, an authority figure who should promote order and justice, he intensifies his satire on life and society under the Poor Laws of 1834. Bumble and Fagin cackle with delight as they exploit others namely the vulnerable Oliver in search of their self-serving goals. Both characters "glide stealthily along, creeping beneath the shelter of the walls and doorways...seem[ing] like some loathsome reptile[s], engendered in the slime and darkness through which [they] move." (186) The novel's satire emerges as the reader connects Fagin's criminal underworld with Bumble's hypocrisy and selfish plaudits, both of which comprise the malaise of Victorian society exposed through Dickens' irony, sarcasm, and biting language. Fagin and Bumble, who fester in their...
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