In chapter XLIV of Oliver Twist, Nancy tries to leave Sikes’ house to meet with Rose Maylie on the bridge. Sikes is in a mood–“more in the spirit of obstinacy than because he had any real objection” and forbids Nancy from leaving. In fact he holds her down in a chair for an hour while she struggles. It’s another sad example of Sikes abusive control over Nancy. But my question is about Fagin. After this incident (which Fagin witnesses) Fagin whispers to Nancy.
“The reason of all this,” replied Fagin. “If he”–he pointed with his skinny fore-finger up the stairs–“is so hard with you, (he’s a brute, Nance, a brute-beast) why don’t you—“
“Well!” said the girl, as Fagin paused, with his mouth almost touching her ear, and his eyes looking into hers.
“No matter just now,” said the Jew, “We’ll talk of this again. You have a friend in me, Nance; a staunch friend. I have the means at hand, quiet and close. If you want revenge on those that treat you like a dog–like a dog! worse than his dog, for he humours him sometimes–come to me. I say, come to me. He is the mere hound of a day, but you know me, of old, Nance.”
What’s going on with Fagin? Is he truly concerned for Nancy? He couldn’t be… could he?
Fagin seems to walk a fine line where Sikes is concerned: pleasing him, hating him, using him, fearing him…
Yes, Fagin and Nancy have known each other for a long time, but I can not see that as a reason for Nancy to trust Fagin. Perhaps Fagin senses that something is “up” with Nancy, and he is worried that she knows too many of his secrets?
Fellow Oliver Readers, what’s going on here?