This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (January 2017)
Bill Sikes by Fred Barnard
|Created by||Charles Dickens|
|Portrayed by||George Siegmann (1922), William "Stage" Boyd (1933), Robert Newton (1948), Oliver Reed (1968), Tim Curry (1982), Michael Attwell (1985), Robert Loggia (voice, 1988), Michael McAnallen (1995), David O'Hara (1997), Andy Serkis (1999), Jamie Foreman (2005), Tom Hardy (2007), Burn Gorman (2009), Steven Hartley (2009), Shannon Wise (2010), Jake Thomas (2011), Anthony Brown (2012), Mark Stanley (2015)|
|Significant other(s)||Nancy (lover, deceased)|
Role in the novel
Dickens describes his first appearance:
The man who growled out these words, was a stoutly-built fellow of about five-and-thirty, in a black velveteen coat, very soiled drab breeches, lace-up half boots, and grey cotton stockings which enclosed a bulky pair of legs, with large swelling calves—the kind of legs, which in such costume, always look in an unfinished and incomplete state without a set of fetters to garnish them. He had a brown hat on his head, and a dirty belcher handkerchief round his neck: with the long frayed ends of which he smeared the beer from his face as he spoke. He disclosed, when he had done so, a broad heavy countenance with a beard of three weeks' growth, and two scowling eyes; one of which displayed various parti-coloured symptoms of having been recently damaged by a blow.
His prostitute girlfriend Nancy tolerates his violent behaviour, because she loves him. However, when he thinks Nancy has betrayed him, Sikes viciously murders her. The murder is especially gruesome and one of the most graphic, frightening scenes Dickens ever wrote. In the end a mob hounds him through the streets of London until he hangs himself while trying to escape. It is left ambiguous as to whether or not this was intentional.
Sikes has almost no redeeming qualities, although Dickens does give him some shading: at the robbery in the countryside, Sikes, rather than leave Oliver at the scene of his botched burglary of Mrs. Maylie's house, picks him up and runs with him as far as he can, before hiding him in a ditch at the suggestion of an accomplice. After he brutally beats Nancy to death, he apparently is capable of feeling guilt—although this is essentially suspicion that Fagin lied to him about her betrayal, and fear of the possibility of being caught.
Sikes' background and early life prior to joining Fagin are not mentioned in the book.
Robert Newton first played Sikes on screen in the 1948 British film noir Oliver Twist. Sikes' death is changed slightly: while attempting to swing to another building to escape the mob, he is shot by a police officer and is hanged from the stomach.
Sikes was played by Danny Sewell in the stage musical Oliver! which won several awards in the early 1960s. Oliver Reed played Sikes in the musical's 1968 film adaptation which also won several awards, with Reed's performance often cited as the best portrayal of Sikes - being labelled as "the sinister core of the film". His songs are removed from the film, making his performance of the character closer to that of the novel rather than the stage version. The famous climax of the 1948 film adaptation is retained and Bill Sikes dies in the same manner of being shot then accidentally hanging himself.
In Disney's animated version, Oliver & Company (1988), Sikes is renamed Sykes and he is a cold-hearted loan shark who lives and works in a New York shipyard with his Dobermans, Roscoe and DeSoto and is voiced by Robert Loggia. Fagin, here depicted as a dogkeeper, owes him money. In a final confrontation, Sykes chases Fagin and the dogs into the subway tunnels until they reach the Brooklyn Bridge. While Roscoe and DeSoto are killed when they fall onto the electrified railway, Sykes fights with Oliver on the roof of his limousine, and is finally killed when his car collides with a train, sending his body falling into the East River.
- Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Vol. 1 (2nd ed.). London: Richard Bentley. pp. 198–9.
- "Bill Sikes: My favourite Charles Dickens character". Telegraph (2012-02-15). Retrieved 2018-08-11.