|The Artful Dodger|
The Artful Dodger by "Kyd" c.1890
|First appearance||Oliver Twist|
|Created by||Charles Dickens|
Jack Wild (1968)
Billy Joel (voice only, 1988)
Elijah Wood (1997)
Harry Eden (2005)
Adam Arnold (2007)
John Dawkins, better known as the Artful Dodger, is a character in the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist. Dodger is a pickpocket, so called for his skill and cunning in that respect. He is the leader of the gang of child criminals, trained by the elderly Fagin.
In the novel, he becomes Oliver's closest friend (although he betrays him when Oliver is mistakenly caught) and he tries to make him a pickpocket, but soon realizes that Oliver won't succeed, and feels sorry for him, saying "What a pity it is he isn't a prig!" He also has a close relationship with Charley Bates. The Artful Dodger is characterized as a child who acts like an adult. He is described as wearing adult clothes which are much too large for him. Like an adult, he seldom gives in to childish urges.
The Artful, meantime, who was of a rather saturnine disposition, and seldom gave way to merriment when it interfered with business, rifled Oliver's pockets with steady assiduity.
Ultimately the Dodger is caught with a stolen silver snuff box and presumably sent to a penal colony in Australia (only alluded to in the novel). The absurdity of the master pickpocket being caught over something so small is remarked upon in the book.
They've found the gentleman as owns the box; two or three more's a coming to 'dentify him; and the Artful's booked for a passage out,' replied Master Bates. 'I must have a full suit of mourning, Fagin, and a hatband, to wisit him in, afore he sets out upon his travels. To think of Jack Dawkins—lummy Jack—the Dodger—the Artful Dodger—going abroad for a common twopenny-halfpenny sneeze-box! I never thought he'd a done it under a gold watch, chain, and seals, at the lowest. Oh, why didn't he rob some rich old gentleman of all his valables, and go out as a gentleman, and not like a common prig, without no honour nor glory!
The Dodger chooses to consider himself a "victim of society," roaring in the courtroom, "I am an Englishman; where are my privileges?" The judge has little patience for the Dodger's posturing, and orders him out of the courtroom immediately after the jury convicts him of the theft. Dickens describes him this way:
With these last words, the Dodger suffered himself to be led off by the collar, threatening, till he got into the yard, to make a parliamentary business of it, and then grinning in the officer's face, with great glee and self-approval.
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. 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 there he kept them. He was, altogether, as roystering and swaggering a young gentleman as ever stood four feet six, or something less, in the bluchers.
Dickens had first used a similar term in his previous novel, The Pickwick Papers. At the close of Chapter 16, Sam Weller refers to the recent schemes of Mr. Jingle: "Reg'lar do, sir; artful dodge."
The Artful Dodger, though a pickpocket, is not a heartless character. He has a great respect for Fagin, to whom he delivers all of the pickpocketing spoils without question.
Actors who have played the role
The role of the Artful Dodger has been played by several notable performers. British actor Anthony Newley played the character in a 1948 film adaptation of the story. The role was amplified in the musical Oliver!. The part was first played by Martin Horsey (actor, director and author of "L'Chaim"), and later by Tony Robinson, Davy Jones, Leonard Whiting, Steve Marriott, and Phil Collins, among others. Elijah Wood also portrayed the character in the 1997 television film that aired as part of The Wonderful World of Disney on ABC. He was played by Harry Eden in Roman Polanski's big-budget 2005 film version.
In the 1968 film Oliver!, Jack Wild played the role and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. In the BBC adaptation of Oliver Twist in 2007, he is played by Adam Arnold.
In the 1980 ATV series The Further Adventures of Oliver Twist, the Dodger was played by John Fowler. When Oliver is sent by Mr. Brownlow to a boarding school, he finds the Dodger already there, and it is revealed that thanks to Oliver's uncle Harry Maylie the Dodger escaped transportation and was instead enrolled in the school. The two friends re-unite, and when Oliver flees the school the Dodger follows him back to London. Oliver is made to believe, by Noah Claypole, Noah's girlfriend Charlotte, and Mrs. Carraway (Mr. Brownlow's corrupt new housekeeper), that Mr. Brownlow is ill to the point of death. After Dodger rescues Oliver from his imprisonment by Claypole in the Brownlow cellar, he and Oliver are forced to take to the streets to uncover the truth, encountering Mr. Bumble, the villainous Monks, and their old mentor Fagin along the way.
In Walt Disney's 1988 animated feature film version of Oliver Twist, Oliver and Company, the character of the Artful Dodger was changed to a streetwise anthropomorphic mutt simply named Dodger. The voice was provided by musician Billy Joel.
In 1996, Jean Loup Wolfman played the role in an adaptation by Seth Michael Donsky entitled Twisted. The film is set in a contemporary New York City underground populated by drag queens, drug abusers and hustlers. The Artful Dodger is a gay rent boy and hustler called Arthur, better known among his clientele as "Fine Art". He befriends the Oliver Twist character called Lee (played by Keivyn McNeill Grayes), the latter a black adolescent runaway.
In 2001, the Artful Dodger was the subject of an Australian children's show called Escape of the Artful Dodger. The show followed the Artful Dodger's adventures in the Australian penal colony in New South Wales, as well as his eventual redemption. Oliver Twist and Fagin also appeared.
In the 2003 Twist film, a modern-day retelling of the story, the Artful Dodger is called Dodge and is played by Nick Stahl. The film is told from his point of view, where he's a drug addict influenced by Fagin.
Argentine football legend and 1986 FIFA World Cup winning captain Diego Maradona has frequently been referred to as the Artful Dodger due to his cunning personality and ability to get away with unpenalized fouls.
At least two different books about the Major League Baseball club known as the "Dodgers" have used this character's name as a play-on-words for their titles: The Artful Dodgers, edited by Tom Meany; and The Artful Dodger, by Tommy Lasorda with David Fisher.
Condredge Holloway, the quarterback for the University of Tennessee Volunteers (1972–74), was known as "The Artful Dodger" for his scrambling prowess and elusive manner. Holloway was the first African-American starting quarterback in the history of Southeastern Conference football, went on to star in the Canadian Football League from 1975 through 1987, and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
In the Bewitched episode, "The Phrase is Familiar", Tabitha's tutor uses witchcraft to make the Artful Dodger come out of Oliver Twist. In this episode he steals Samantha's ring, Darrin's watch, and the cufflinks of a client of Darrin's advertising company.
The literary magazine Artful Dodge was named after the character.
In an episode of Gilmore Girls, "Nick & Nora, Sid & Nancy", Rory calls Jess "Dodger" after he steals her book.
In the episode "It's Better to Burn Out Than Fae Away" of Lost Girl, a character refers to himself as being the "Artful Dodger" for his artist friend. Bo suggests that he didn't actually read Oliver Twist.
Terry Pratchett has written a non-Discworld novel called Dodger, released in September 2012, with the title character bearing certain similarities to the Dickens character. The sampler of the book also includes him meeting an astute gentleman who concerns himself with the well-being of the poor called Charlie Dickens.
In the first edition of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's comic series League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, set in the London of 1898, the Dodger briefly appears as an elderly man running his own gang of boy thieves, hinting that he is still following in Fagin's footsteps.
- "Obituaries — Jack Wild". London: The Times. 3 March 2007. Retrieved 1 June 2007.
- TV Guide: Twisted
- "World Cup Legends #1: Diego Maradona". Esquire. Retrieved 3 February 2015
- "Argentina coach Diego Maradona writes another chapter in a turbulent life". The Telegraph. Retrieved 3 February 2015
- Taylor, Chris (9 November 2005). "A Big Hand". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 February 2015
- Jimmy Burns (2011). "Maradona: The Hand of God". p. 17. A&C Black