Dickens’ Novel Racism

fagin.jpgThe Guardian’s Nicholas Blincoe takes a look at the anti-southwest Asian (aka Middle Eastern) racism of one of England’s most beloved authors, Charles Dickens…turns out Fagin from Oliver Twist isn’t only a slag against Ashkenazi Jews (as is traditionally thought) but a distorted racist vision of southwest Asians in general. The reasons why Dickens feminized Fagin is also mysterious and may offer insight into the author’s rigid heterosexism:

But re-reading the novel, there is another surprise. Dickens is racist, but he is racist in a different way than we would expect, after a century of vicious anti-semitism. His target is both broader and more specific than we might imagine. It is broader, because he is depicting what he believes is a Middle Eastern-type that would include Jews, Turks, Arabs and others (Circassians and Armenians, for instance). But it is specific in that the characterisation takes place within quite narrow bounds: Fagin is a lover of shiny things, of luxury, of velvet and of silks. He wears a kind of fez-like cap and makes Turkish coffee. He is soft and rather effeminate; not homosexual, because he is asexual, but a maternal figure. He may be a very bad mother but he is a mother nevertheless.

Here’s the original article.

Leave a Reply