ADVANTAGES

Cast iron fireplace tool holder with poker and tongs in the shape of Fagin, a Jewish criminal from the novel, Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens, 1837-39. The tongs resemble a trident, referencing the toasting fork Fagin uses in the novel. He is described as devil-like and is often portrayed with a trident shaped toasting fork to emphasize this connection. His characterization is antisemitic and exploits many negative stereotypes. Referred to as The Jew, Fagin is introduced as "villainous and repulsive." His nails are black, his few teeth are fangs, he is greedy, vicious, and kidnaps small children to make them thieves. Dickens rationalized it by saying that if he had a character who was a fence for stolen goods, he had to be a Jew because "that class of criminal almost invariably was a Jew." Many adaptations try to sidestep the complications of Fagin's ethnic identity, and make him more of a comic figure, but the unpleasant Jewish stereotypes are central to his depiction. This fireset is one of the more than 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic artifacts and visual materials.

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