by Charles Dickens
Oliver Twist Religion Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
In short, the wily old Jew had the boy in his toils; and, having prepared his mind by solitude and gloom to prefer any society to the companionship of his own sad thoughts in such a dreary place, was now slowly instilling into his soul the poison which he hoped would blacken it and change its hue for ever. (18.58)
Even though the stereotypes against Fagin tend to be more racial than religious, our discussion of the theme of "religion" in Oliver Twist can’t ignore the only character who isn’t a Christian. The constant references to Fagin as "the Jew" are certainly painful to modern readers, and they didn’t slip past contemporary readers, either – a Jewish acquaintance of Dickens’s pointed out to him how bad it was to casually play into the common racial prejudice against Jewish people, so in a later edition (1867, to be exact – thirty years after it first came out), Dickens started changing some of those references to "he" or to "Fagin."
"I’m sure we have all on us a great deal to be grateful for – a great deal, if we did but know it. Ah!" ["all on us" in the original]
Mrs. Corney shook her head mournfully, as if deploring the mental blindness of paupers who did not know it, and, thrusting a silver spoon (private property) into the inmost recesses of a two-ounce tin tea-caddy, proceeded to make the tea. (23.3-4)
Mrs. Corney is very pleased with her piety, moral strength and sense of gratitude – not hard to do on a cold night if one has a warm fire in a comfortable room with a cup of tea. You know the expression "to be born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth?" Yeah, that’s Mrs. Corney here. And what’s she doing with that silver spoon? She’s delving into the "inmost recesses" of a "two-ounce" container of tea – if it’s only two ounces, she doesn’t have to dig very far to get to its "inmost recesses." So why did Dickens put it that way? Because that’s about the extent of Mrs. Corney’s reflections – they don’t dig deeper than the surface, and she can’t see past her own her own immediate needs and desires.
And, when Sunday came, how differently the day was spent from any manner in which he had ever spent it yet! (32.54)
Even though he’d grown up in and among religious institutions, Oliver doesn’t go to a "real" church until he’s living in the country with the Maylies. It’s another example of the difference between the organized, institutionalized religion that the workhouse system represents, and the personal religion that the Maylies represent.