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The Artful Dodger from Oliver Twist: Character Analysis & Overview

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  • 0:00 Background on ''Oliver Twist''
  • 1:11 Character Analysis of…
  • 2:12 Artful Dodger -…
  • 2:34 The Dodger's Fate
  • 3:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ann Casano

Ann has taught university level Film classes and has a Master's Degree in Cinema Studies.

Not everyone gets a fair shake in life. Read about the Artful Dodger from 'Oliver Twist.' He doesn't have the biggest role in the novel, but he has become one of Charles Dickens' most adored characters ever.

Background on Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist, published in 1838, was Charles Dickens' second novel and perhaps his most famous. It tells the coming of age story of a sweet, innocent orphan boy who finds himself scared and alone in the filthy streets around London. Oliver Twist is a novel of social commentary. It describes the day to day survival habits of the poor with great realism. Dickens wanted to show the world what it was like to be without a voice, to be the lowest level of society, begging for scraps of food and living in squalor.

In the narrative of the story, Oliver survives. He goes from poor orphan to wealthy boy who gets to live in a happy home. He never loses his innocence. But, what about the other children? What about the Artful Dodger, Jack Dawkins? The young boy, around the same age as Oliver, is a skilled pickpocket. He was forced to thieve and rob and work for an old miser named Fagin just to survive. Dickens paints Jack as a victim of society, a victim of his circumstances. He never had the opportunity to choose how he wanted to live his life. His only choice was to become a criminal.

Character Analysis of Artful Dodger

Yes, the Artful Dodger found the young, desperate, starving, naïve Oliver Twist and brought him home to the manipulative Fagin to begin a life of crime. Yes, the Artful Dodger helps to train Oliver to become a pickpocket and then betrays him in the end. But despite all that, the Artful Dodger is one of Charles Dickens' most beloved and celebrated characters ever.

He's funny, he does what he wants and although not even thirteen years old, he acts like an adult. He struts around like a man, he speaks like a man, and he wears men's clothes. The Artful Dodger is so good at pickpocketing, that he is the indisputable leader of Fagin's collected gang of child thieves.

The Artful Dodger also proves that there is honor among thieves. He has enormous respect for the old man who taught him the craft of thievery and puts a roof above his head. He is always sure to give Fagin his earnings and not steal any of the goods he collects. The respect between the boy and the old man is mutual.

Artful Dodger - Physical Description

We meet the Artful Dodger in Chapter 8. Here's how Dickens describes the young lad:

''He was a snub-nosed, flat-browed, common-faced boy enough; and as dirty a juvenile as one would wish to see; but he had about him all the airs and manners of a man. He was short of his age: with rather bow-legs, and little, sharp, ugly eyes.''

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