Artful Dodger

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Jack Dawkins, better known as the Artful Dodger, is a character in Charles Dickens's 1838 novel Oliver Twist.[1] The Dodger is a pickpocket, so called for his skill and cunning in that occupation. He is the leader of the gang of child criminals on the streets of London, trained by the elderly Fagin. The term has become an idiom describing a person with skilful deception.

The Artful Dodger
The Artful Dodger by "Kyd" c. 1890
Created byCharles Dickens
Portrayed byEdouard Trebaol (1922)
Anthony Newley (1948)
Melvyn Hayes (1962)
Davy Jones (1963)
Phil Collins (1964)
Jack Wild (1968)
Martin Tempest (1982)
David Garlick (1985)
Elijah Wood (1997)
Alex Crowley (2007)
Harry Eden (2005)
Adam Arnold (2007)
Hayley Smith (2011)
Kielan Ellis (2014)
Kyle Coffman (2015)
Wilson Radjou-Pujalte (2016)
Rita Ora (2021)
Billy Jenkins (2022)
Voiced byBilly Joel
In-universe information
Full nameJack Dawkins

Role in the novelEdit

In the novel, he becomes Oliver's closest friend (although he betrays Oliver when Oliver is caught) and he tries to make him a pickpocket, but soon realises that Oliver will not 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 characterised 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.

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 roistering and swaggering a young gentleman as ever stood four feet six, or something less, in the blushers.

James Mahony's 1871 engraving of the Artful Dodger (left) introducing himself to Oliver as "Jack Dawkins," known as "the artful Dodger". Dodger uses Cockney slang which is juxtaposed with Oliver's 'proper' English.
George Cruikshank's original engraving in 1838 of the Artful Dodger (centre), introducing Oliver (right) to Fagin (left). It can be argued that Cruikshank originated the Dodger's trademark top hat -- Dickens never specifically describes the hat.

Ultimately the Dodger is caught with a stolen silver snuff box and presumably transported from England 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 identify 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 wist 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 valuables, 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, ain't I? Where are my priwileges?"[2] The jailer tells him "You'll get your privileges soon enough", while 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.

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."[3]

The Artful Dodger, though a pickpocket, is not a heartless character. He has a great respect for Fagin – "There ain't no teacher like Fagin!" (chapter 3) – to whom he delivers all of the pickpocketing spoils without question.

Actors who have played the roleEdit

Jack Wild as Dodger in the musical Oliver! (1968). He earned nominations for a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, and an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

The role of the Artful Dodger has been played by several notable performers. 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, and later by Tony Robinson, Davy Jones, Leonard Whiting, Steve Marriott, and Phil Collins.[4] Elijah Wood also portrayed the character in the 1997 television film, which 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.[5]

In the 1968 film Oliver!, Jack Wild played the role and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.[6] In the BBC adaptation of Oliver Twist in 2007, he is played by Adam Arnold.[7] In the 2021 film Twist, Rita Ora plays the role.[8]

Others to have played the role in amateur productions include Adam Levine, Ben Elton, Robbie Williams, Joe Jonas, Claire Josefson, and Hayley Smith.[9][10]

Cultural influencesEdit

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.[11] In Peter F. Hamilton's Void Trilogy, Aaron pilots a spaceship called the Artful Dodger.

Argentine football player and 1986 FIFA World Cup winning captain Diego Maradona was frequently referred to as the Artful Dodger due to his cunning personality and ability to get away with fouls, such as disguising the illegal use of his hand, as he infamously did when scoring with the "Hand of God".[12][13][14][15]

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.[16]

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.[17]

Dodger is one of the characters in Shadowrun, an elven hacker; his romantic involvement with semi-autonomous knowbot Morgan spurs her into full self-consciousness and turns her into one of the setting's first true AIs, launching a far-reaching chain of events that still largely define the metaplot twenty in-character (fifteen real) years later.

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 Lost Girl episode "It's Better to Burn Out Than Fade Away", a character refers to himself as being the "Artful Dodger" for his artist friend. Bo suggests that he did not actually read Oliver Twist.

In the 1986 animated film An American Tail, Tony Toponi, a streetwise teenage mouse of Italian descent, has similarities to the Artful Dodger.

The character of Adric in the science-fiction TV series Doctor Who was originally envisioned as an Artful Dodger-style character.

Modern interpretationsEdit

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 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".[18] He befriends the Oliver Twist character called Lee (played by Keivyn McNeill Grayes), the latter a black adolescent runaway.

In the first edition of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's comic series League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, set in 1898 London, 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.[19]

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.[20]

In the 2003 film Twist, the Artful Dodger is called Dodge and is played by Nick Stahl. The film is told from his point of view, in which he is a drug addict influenced by Fagin.[21]

In the 2010 Doctor Who audio drama Legend of the Cybermen, the Artful Dodger is one of the characters seen in the land of fiction. He was voiced by Steven Kynman.

In Tony Lee's 2011 novel Dodge & Twist, set twelve years after the events of Oliver Twist, Dodger has returned to England a changed man from his time in Australia, and is planning a heist. However he cannot escape the 'ghost' of Fagin, who still guides his actions, even past the grave.[22]

In Terry Pratchett's 2012 novel Dodger, the title character bears 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.[23]

A 2014 novel by Peter David, Artful, features the Artful Dodger as the main character, and depicts his life following the events of Oliver Twist, which includes confrontations with vampires, one of whom is revealed to be Fagin.[24] The storyline of that novel was continued in a comic book series of the same name.[25]

In the late 2015 BBC series Dickensian, the Artful Dodger is portrayed by Wilson Radjou-Pujalte.[26]

In the 2022 CBBC series, Dodger, the Artful Dodger is portrayed by Billy Jenkins.[27]


  1. ^ Strouf, Judie L. H. (2005). The literature teacher's book of lists. Jossey-Bass. p. 13. ISBN 0787975508.
  2. ^ Charles Dickens. "XLIII". Oliver Twist. Nalanda Digital Library. Archived from the original on 22 March 2012. Retrieved 20 May 2020. Project Gutenberg
  3. ^ Dickens, Charles (1838-01-01). The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Carey, Lea and Blanchard. p. 214.
  4. ^ Collins, Phil (2016). Not Dead Yet. Century Books. p. 34. ISBN 978-1780895123.
  5. ^ "Polanski takes on Oliver Twist". BBC. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  6. ^ "Obituaries — Jack Wild". The Times. London. 3 March 2007. Retrieved 1 June 2007.
  7. ^ Davies, Serena (15 December 2007). "An Oliver for Our Times". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  8. ^ "'Twist': Michael Caine, Lena Headey, Rita Ora & Raff Law Lead Cast In Sky Movie Update Of Charles Dickens Classic". Deadline. Retrieved 27 November 2020.
  9. ^ "Brian Rawlins part 1: The Artful Dodger". BBC. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  10. ^ "Robbie Williams: The ego has flown". NZ Herald. Retrieved 14 June 2018
  11. ^ "Further Adventures of Oliver Twist Old Acquaintance (1980)". BFI. Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  12. ^ "World Cup Legends #1: Diego Maradona" Archived 2015-02-03 at the Wayback Machine. Esquire. Retrieved 3 February 2015
  13. ^ "Argentina coach Diego Maradona writes another chapter in a turbulent life". The Telegraph. Retrieved 3 February 2015
  14. ^ Taylor, Chris (9 November 2005). "A Big Hand". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 February 2015
  15. ^ Jimmy Burns (2011). "Maradona: The Hand of God". p. 17. A&C Black
  16. ^ "The Artful Dodger by Tommy Lasorda and David Fisher". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  17. ^ Fuchs, Cynthia. "The Color Orange: The Condredge Holloway Story.", February 21, 2011. Retrieved October 7, 2015.
  18. ^ Twisted. "Twisted Movie Trailer, Reviews and More |". Retrieved 2017-03-02.
  19. ^ "The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: 10 Things You Didn't Know About The Alan Moore Series". CBR. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  20. ^ "Escape of the Artful Dodger (2001)". Screen Australia. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  21. ^ "Twist Is-They Turn Tricks". The Observer. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  22. ^ results, search (2011-09-13). Dodge & Twist: A Sequel To Oliver Twist (1st ed.).
  23. ^ " Dodger (Dodger #1)by Terry Pratchett ". Goodreads. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  24. ^ Richards, Dave (March 26, 2014). "David Introduces a Dangerous Dynamic in 'All-New X-Factor'".
  25. ^ Johnston, Rich (July 7, 2016). "Action Lab Launches Peter David's Artful At San Diego – And Other Exclusives". Bleeding Cool.
  26. ^ "Dickensian Press Pack" (PDF). BBC Media Centre. 11 December 2015.
  27. ^ "Dodger: Meet the cast and creators of CBBC's Victorian adventure". Retrieved 2022-02-15.

External linksEdit