July 08, 2022

#08-222: Fagin and the Artful Dodger

Fagin and the Artful Dodger

Note: It's said that the English author Charles Dickens created 989 named characters. Let's get to know two of them a little better.

Get Ready: Whoa re your favorite characters in books? What do you like about them?

One of the most enjoyable things about reading novels by Charles Dickens is entering the world of minor and even incidental characters that he builds into his plots. Many readers (and filmgoers) are familiar Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol, Miss Havisham (Great Expectations), the evil Madame Defarge (A Tale of Two Cities), Uriah Heep and Mr. Micawber (David Copperfield), the eponymous Samuel Pickwick (The Pickwick Papers), and many more.

Let's meet two more today, from Dickens's second novel, Oliver Twist.

As a young boy, the orphaned Oliver runs away to London to seek a better life. There he meets a devil-may-care pickpocket named Jack Dawkins, AKA "The Artful Dodger," and his boss, the gang leader Fagin.

Fagin has organized a group of children who have ended up living on the street through one misfortune or another. In exchange for teaching them to pick pockets and commit other petty crimes, he feeds and houses them: as the Dodger tells Oliver admiringly when first they meet, Fagin is someone "wot'll give you lodgings for nothink, and never ask for the change."

But Fagin is not a nurturing man. He feeds the children in his "care" as little as possible--Oliver becomes malnourished--and keeps as much money for himself as he can. Twice when Oliver is in trouble Fagin abandons him, and when he thinks that Oliver has escaped (and thus is likely to turn Fagin in to the police), he has Oliver kidnapped and beats him. What's more, he engages in a plot to keep Oliver from learning who his real father is, thereby inheriting a great deal of wealth.

More to the reader's liking is Jack Dawkins. His nickname means he is skillful ("Artful") at avoiding capture ("Dodging"). He met Oliver on his approach to London after running away from the countryside and brought him into Fagin's gang--after the promise of a meal.

In the end Dickens assures us that crime doesn't pay--Fagin ends up hanged, and Jack Dawkins is transported to the British penal colony in Australia--and virtue wins out, as young Oliver collects his inheritance and is adopted by the kindly middle-aged bachelor Mr. Brownlow.


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. bachelor
  2. devil-may-care
  3. eponymous
  4. lodgings
  5. misfortune
  6. nurturing
  7. orphaned
  8. penal colony
  9. petty
  10. pickpocket

  1. places to stay
  2. small; not serious
  3. left without parents
  4. caring; encouraging the growth of someone
  5. with the same name
  6. a person who steals wallets and the like
  7. bad luck
  8. a land where prisoners live
  9. cheerful; carefree
  10. an unmarried man

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for July 8, 2022

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. j; 2. i; 3. e; 4. a; 5. g; 6. d; 7. c; 8. h; 9. b; 10. f