In his cell Fagin attempts to gather his thoughts, and whilst these are rapidly passed before the reader's eyes, no explicit recognition is given to his likely sense of having been unfairly condemned, even if only from self-justification. His only capital sin seems to be that of tainting Oliver. At times he 'raved and blasphemed; and at another howled and tore his hair', we are told, but this is merely intended to be a further symptom of his wickedness. Awaiting execution he absolutely ceases to be the child-snatching embodiment of fairy-tale evil that Dickens wants us to remember him as. He is all-too fragile, losing his mind as the ghoulish crowd outside receives 'the welcome intelligence' that no reprieve has been granted. A careless but telling reference is made at this point to 'his blighted soul', and in a flash Dickens exposes the hollowness of his scale of punishment. For Fagin is as blighted as the other unfortunates in the novel, predestined to a grim fate over which he exercises as little control as Oliver has over his. We are left with the twin images of 'a great multitude... smoking and playing cards to beguile the time', in the shadow of 'the black stage, the cross-beam, the rope, and all the hideous apparatus of death'. As the novel ends it is Fagin who is 'a stranger and afraid / In a world [he] never made' (A. E. Housman, Last Poems, XII), and not Oliver Twist.

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