In Roman Polanski's "Oliver Twist" (2005), in the morning when Fagin has brought Oliver breakfast to the bedroom he locked him in for the night he tells Oliver that he caused him and the other boys great anxiety and he tells a short story.

The story is about a lad he once had and he eventually ran away and went to the police and when Fagin asks Oliver "Can you guess how he ended up?"

Fagin says "They hanged him. You don't have to be guilty you see. They hang you for anything these days that because they're so very fond of hanging".

But why would they hang him if he did nothing wrong?

Was it like that back in the 19th Century?

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    Why do you think he's telling the truth? Oct 19, 2018 at 9:34
  • 2
    There's an interesting article here ... over 200 offences had hanging as the sentence including pick pocketing ... Fagins modus operandi vcp.e2bn.org/justice/page11359-types-of-punishment-hanging.html
    – MiguelH
    Oct 19, 2018 at 9:34
  • As I remember, there was a scene in the book where Fagin looked at some of his hidden treasures and talked to himself about "brave boys' who didn't name him and were apparently hanged for it. That might have inspired the movie scene. I may point out that in that time most death sentences, especially for kids, were commuted to transportation to a colony. In fact the Artful Dodger gets sentenced to transportation at the end, and there was an Australian TV series in 2001, Escape of the Artful Dodger, about his adventures there. Oct 22, 2018 at 20:18

1 Answer 1


Your parents never told you that if you won't behave bad man will come and take you? Or that people will give you drugs for free to get you hooked on them? Or other stories that you later discovered were lie told to you just so you would behave?

In Oliver Twist Fagin is the bad man. And only thing worst than him, that can make him "good" in comparison is death. He's basically guilt tripping Olivier into:

  • A) feeling bad that he caused other people problems when they wanted to help him

  • B) other people will harm him and Fagin is only one who can help him.

It's "How to be Manipulative Exploiter 101"

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    You're overlooking the fact that it could well be true. Petty theft was a hanging offense, and an unaccompanied street urchin would not have any legal counsel, nor would a jury trust them over a policeman.
    – OrangeDog
    Oct 19, 2018 at 11:21
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    @OrangeDog In the Fagins story the kid is hang because police is portrayed as sadist "because they're so very fond of hanging" not because of the thievery. Also we can assume that the Fagins want to scare off Oliver from the idea of going to police and tell on him and how he use kids. If petty theft was a hanging offense you can expect what would happened to someone running a ring of said thieves. Oct 19, 2018 at 12:07

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