Jack Dawkins (Artful Dodger): Character in Oliver Twist

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His Significant Role

      A critic Arnold Kettle says, "it is an interesting instance of the power of Dickens' genius that he should have realized that in the Dodger he had created a figure which the plot was quite incapable either of absorbing or obliterating and so he is obliged to give the irrepressible boy his final fling (the trial scene), a fling which raises the book into a serious art. The importance of the Artful Dodger in the pattern of the novel is that he, almost alone of the characters of the under world does stick up for himself, does continue and develop the conflict that Oliver had begun when he asked for more."

      The Artful Dodger's real name is Jack Dawkins. He is responsible for taking Oliver to the den of Fagin, a criminal. He is one of the prominent figures among the group of boys who work for Fagin like Charley Bates and Tom Chitling. All the three have been trained by the Jew as pickpockets and thieves. He is given the name of Artful Dodger because he has become a master of the technique of duping people. He first, appears when Oliver is traveling towards London by foot. He is almost of the age of Oliver but much experienced to him. He takes Oliver to Fagin as his new disciple and to train him in the criminal activities.

The Personality of Artful Dodger

      Artful Dodger is among those characters whose outward appearance is elaborately drawn in the novel. He is described in the novel as, "....one of the queerest looking boys that Oliver had ever seen. He was a snubnosed, 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. His hat was stuck on the top of his head so lightly, that it threatened to fall off every moment — and would have done so, very often, if the wearer had not had a knack of every now and then giving his head a sudden twitch, which brought it back to its old place again. He wore a man's coat, which reached nearly to his heels. He had turned the cuffs back, half-way up his arm, to get his hands out of the sleeves; apparently with the ultimate view of thrusting them into the pockets of his corduroy trousers; for their he kept then." In contrast Bates he is much serious and 'seldom gave way to merriment when it interfered with business it is because he is more self-possessed.

An Unethical Figure

      Jack Dawkins has no moral scruples. He does not even give a second thought to save Oliver when he is arrested and taken to the police station. Dodger seems to be the favorite disciple of Fagin because Fagin teaches the boys to follow Artful Dodger. Artful Dodger is that kind of clever, opportunist and cunning boy that if he has to betray his master he would not hesitate in doing that.

Very Witty and Clever

      Artful Dodger's peculiar wit could be seen very well in the court. In his broken English, he asks why he has been brought in the court, he claims his privileges and calls the Magistrate who is busy in reading the newspaper that first trial should be conducted. After the trial he is found guilty and sentenced. He is so bold and unfrightful that he threatens the jailer and Magistrate of worse consequences, "Ah, (to the bench) it s no use looking frightened, I won't show you no mercy, not a ha porth. You'll pay for this my fine fellers, I wouldn't be you for something. I wouldn't be you for something. I wouldn't go free, now, if you was so fall down on your knees and ask me. Here, carry me off to prison ! Take me away I"

      To sum up, Artful Dodger has throughout the novel been vividly drawn: "His grotesque, the labored irony of his conversation, his shrewdness, his grotesque urbanity, his resourcefulness, his tremendous vitality, all are revealed without false pathos but with an effect of great profundity.".

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