Women: pure and evil

In Charles Dickens’ classic mid-nineteenth century novel, there are few characters who show they are kindhearted and have good intentions. The character who embodies this the most is a young woman named Rose. She is a sweet “girl next door”. As her name hints, she is feminine and beautiful like a flower. Roses symbolize love, and the young woman Rose certainly infiltrates love into this crime ridden storyline. There is another young woman, Nancy, who is affiliated with Fagin’s gang and lives her life on the streets trying to keep herself alive. To Rose, Oliver is an innocent young boy who needs more guidance in his life. Per request of the gang, Nancy kidnaps Oliver. Rose wants nothing but to help other people, Oliver in particular, and Nancy is interjecting herself into his life and causing havoc. To the audience, Rose is portrayed as this ultra-feminine woman whereas Nancy does not even recognize herself as human, let alone feminine. 

Nancy goes to speak with Rose to inform her that she was the one who kidnapped Oliver. She tells Rose, I am the infamous creature you have heard of, that lives among the thieves… so help me God! Do not mind shrinking openly from me, lady. I am younger than you would think, to look at me, but I am well used to it. The poorest woman fall back, as I make my way long the crowded pavement” (Dickens 226). This entire passage is Nancy degrading herself as not just a woman but from humanity, and she is having this conversation with the very entrancing and womanly Rose. 

Nancy identifies herself as a “creature”, an entity that is worse than the “thieves” she lives with and she does not fit in with even the poorest people on the streets. She is a woman, but she is also worse than the other people on the Earth. Labeling herself as “infamous” expresses that her unpleasant qualities are everlasting. Being eternal and a monster are qualities typically describing and evil entity. Nancy is deceptive, she is older than she looks. In actuality, this is likely due to her impoverished lifestyle, but she is “not what she seems” nonetheless. Deceiving others is a trait the devil often uses. 

Rose, on the other hand, is the opposite of Nancy. Although they are both women, Nancy calls Rose “lady”, a title she does not give herself. They are the same, but they are also not, as Nancy would not be offended if Rose visibly showed her disturbance of Nancy’s presence. Nancy also cries out “so help me God!” in a time that Rose tries to lend a helping hand. Rose is portrayed as angelic and feminine. A woman with good energy who wishes to assist others in fixing their problems. This scene stands out in the plot because it is an intimate interaction with two women: one pure and one evil. 

One thought on “Women: pure and evil”

  1. This is a good analysis of the angel/demon imagery ascribed to Rose and Nancy. As I discussed in my post, Rose is certainly described as the ideal woman, while Nancy is devoid of virtue and morality. It is interesting that while Nancy is complicit in harming Oliver, she also attempts to rescue him. Nancy could also be seen as just wanting to help others like Rose, but she cannot because of her lower-class and desperation. She also seems to be jealous of and intimidated by Rose in this scene, demonstrating her desire to be a better person, but she ultimately is trapped.

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