forgive this wretched man!"' Fagin sends up 'cry upon cry that penetrated even those massive walls, and rang in their ears until they reached the open yard'. The interview inadvertently amounts to a damnation of capital punishment.

The killing of Nancy similarly humanises Sikes, 'the most desperate among them all'. Whilst alive she experiences some sort of moral rebirth, making her the only consistently credible character in the book. However, she is unable or unwilling to be 'reformed' (a hazy concept in any case), owing to her fatal attachment to Sikes. She has to prostrate herself before Rose as if somehow culpable for her miserable position in society, whereas a mere quirk of fortune has differentiated their lots (Rose, remember, is an orphanage graduate herself). Rose's claim that it is never too late 'for penitence and atonement' fails to convince Nancy, who nonetheless collapses and employs language of unparalleled absurdity to express her gratitude at the concept being applied to her. Rose promptly gives Nancy a white handkerchief, almost as if it is a healing relic. Nancy's earlier kidnapping of Oliver is a grotesque parody of family love, yet she too seems to have been touched by the innate goodness that he radiates. But by hovering on the line between 'bad' and 'good' she sacrifices her life to the novel's most unambiguously 'bad' character.

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