Throughout Oliver Twist (1838) Charles Dickens depicts Fagin as a cunning and occasionally depraved man. Fagin does not show fear or remorse as he manipulates the Artful Dodger, Oliver, and Nancy to thieve for him. When Fagin is shown as the respectable Old Gentleman on page 62 or when he is conspiring with Noah Claypole in “The Jew and Morris Bolter Begin to Understand Each Other” (Dickens 343) he appears confidant and completely in control. However, Fagin finds himself brought to justice for his misdeeds in chapter LII, he shows fear for the first time. George Cruikshank’s penultimate illustration “Fagin in the Condemned Cell” (431) accompanying Dickens’s text, presents a different Fagin, one who shows dismay and dread for the first time as he awaits hanging.
If the eyes are the windows to the soul, Dickens recognizes this in depicting Fagin as he faces his death. When he is in the courtroom Fagin finds that “inquisitive and eager eyes peered from every inch of space” (426) and he cannot escape their judgment. As Fagin listens to the judge his eyes “turned sharply” (427) on his jury in the hopes of finding even a single person who feels sympathy for him. However, such a friend is not to be found, and when the guilty verdict is brought down, Fagin is sent to prison to await his sentence, “to be hanged by the neck, till he was dead” (429). Once Fagin is brought to his cell, his eyes cease their wandering and “casting his blood-shot eyes upon the ground” (429) he attempts to gather together his thoughts.
In Cruikshank’s illustration, Fagin’s eyes dominate the entirety of the scene. They bulge out of Fagin’s face, and, in agreement with Dickens’s text, “shone with a terrible light” (433). Where in “Oliver Introduced” and “The Jew and Morris Bolter” Fagin’s features arranged themselves into a general look of shrewdness, now, for the first time, they show fear. The whiteness of his eyes and his furrowed brow convey his panic as he stares fixedly at a spot before him. Cruikshank emphasizes Fagin’s eyes when drawing the walls of Fagin’s cell. They are made up of hundreds of small circles, which mimic the shape of Fagin’s own eyes and draw attention to them. These circles also hearken back to the courtroom, directly before Fagin is brought to the cell. Dickens describes the room as “paved, from floor to roof, with human faces. Inquisitive and eager eyes peered from every inch of space” (426). Fagin might have left the courtroom of curious and condemning eyes, but he cannot escape the eyes of his judges. They blanket the walls of his cell, making his own crazed gaze that much more apparent.
In his text, Dickens describes Fagin’s body language and attitude as he is led to and placed into his cell. As his jailors are leading him away Fagin “shook his fist” (429) at the spectators jeering and hissing at him. Before the full realization of his fate has sunk in, he has enough pride to be angry. When Fagin is in his cell he “started up every minute, and...