Friday, February 19, 2021

Fagin "the Jew" and Quilp "the dwarf" in Charles Dickens

In Charles Dickens's "Oliver Twist" (1838), the phrase "the Jew" outnumbers the word "Fagin", 307 to 306 – an emphasis on Fagin's Judaism that was already an issue during Dickens's lifetime. But there's a similar pattern in "The Old Curiosity Shop" (1840): Daniel Quilp, Nell Trent's nemesis, is referred to as a "dwarf" 214 times, compared to approximately 471 cases of Quilp (which is harder to be precise about because "Mrs Quilp" also appears often). Dickens's connection of Quilp's physical appearance to his evil character and appearance is almost as pervasive as the connection of Fagin's Judaism to his criminality and miserliness, yet the former seems to have attracted much less attention. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 19 February 2021) 

Toby Jones as Quilp in The Old Curiosity Shop (2007).

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