| Quote #1
In one instant the whole mystery of the handkerchiefs, and the watches, and the jewels, and the Jew, rushed upon the boy’s mind. He stood for a moment with the blood tingling through all his veins from terror, that he felt as if he were in a burning fire; then, confused and frightened, he took to his heels. (10.15)
This is the moment of truth for Oliver – it’s the moment he realizes what the Dodger and Charley are up to, and it’s the moment of conscious rejection. Oliver has a choice, and he makes it. Too bad some of the other members of Fagin’s gang were never really given a choice…
| Quote #2
"Once let him feel that he is one of us; once fill his mind with the idea that he has been a thief, and he’s ours,– ours for his life!" (19.83)
This is obviously Fagin speaking, and he’s gloating over the idea of how Oliver’s going to be forced into helping Bill Sikes and Toby Crackit rob a house, and then he’ll be corrupted forever. Wait, what? There’s no turning back? It’s not like when you spill bleach on your jeans – yes, that’s forever. But even if Oliver did commit a crime, or help others to commit a crime – does that make him a criminal forever? Doesn’t he get a choice? Is it always one or the other? Is there no chance for redemption in this novel?
| Quote #3
"The worst of these women is, that a very little thing serves to call up some long-forgotten feeling; and the best of them is, that it never lasts. Ha! ha!" (19.103)
This is Fagin, deciding that Nancy has totally gotten over her sympathy for Oliver. This quotation sets up a couple of extremes – worst and best, "little things" and "long-forgotten feelings." And Fagin suggests that all women embody all those extremes – but that "it never lasts." He at first suggests that Nancy might have a really complicated psychology, but then throws that idea out by saying that "it never lasts." Also, by setting up that generalization (this is how all women are), Fagin dooms Nancy to living her life in one of two extremes – does she have no choice in the matter? Is it always one extreme or the other?