by Charles Dickens
Oliver Twist Fate and Free Will Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
The girl’s life had been squandered in the streets, and the most noisome of the stews and dens of London, but there was something still of the woman’s original nature left in her still; and when she heard a light step approaching the door opposite to that by which she had entered, and thought of the wide contrast which the small room would in another moment contain, she felt burdened with the sense of her own shame, and shrunk as though she could scarcely bear the presence of her with whom she had sought this interview. (40.51)
Two interesting things about this passage: first, there’s the assumption that there is some "original nature" common to all women, and which even a life like Nancy’s, which was "squandered in the streets […] and dens of London" can’t stamp out or obliterate. Second, is the contrast that Dickens is trying to create between Nancy (in spite of the "woman’s original nature" that she still retains) and Miss Maylie. Rose’s "light step" is in contrast to the dark and "noisome" "stews and dens" in which Nancy has grown up. Rose even approaches the room (a kind of common ground) by the opposite door from the one Nancy entered.
"Let me go," said the girl with great earnestness; then, sitting herself down on the floor before the door, she said – "Bill, let me go; you don’t know what you’re doing – you don’t, indeed. For only one hour – do – do!" (44.34)
Nancy and the other members of Fagin’s gang usually seem to be controlled by some form of fate, rather than by free will. Nancy has already exercised her free will once, by going to see Rose, and now Fate – in the form of Bill – is taking control again.
‘I am chained to my old life. I loathe and hate it now, but I cannot leave it. I must have gone too far to turn back,-- and yet I don’t know.’ (46.74)
Seriously, why can’t Nancy leave her old life? This novel is obsessed with imprisonment, and fatality: once you start a life of crime, it’s impossible to turn back in this novel. And Nancy’s fated to stick it out with Fagin’s gang; she says she is "chained" to that life. It’s an important choice of words – she can’t escape.