Monday, February 7, 2011

Charles Dickens (February 7, 1812)

Dickens' best-known Jewish character is Fagin, the detestable thief and corrupter of Oliver Twist. He based the character loosely on the notorious Ikey Solomon, who was transported to Australia after a high-profile life of crime. A fascinating story in itself.

Why would I list Dickens here if his most famous Jewish character is so defaming of Jews? Well, interestingly, after he wrote the book Dickens received a letter from a Jewish woman who complained about his stereotyping of Jews, and he actually regretted his excess, and wrote a more likable (though less famous) character to make up for it. I've read the exchange of letters in which Dickens became much more sympathetic to Jews, who were not really well-liked in his time, and I appreciate how he was open-minded to changing his views. Unfortunately, the character he wrote in atonement is nowhere near as memorable as Fagin.

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