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Charles Dickens

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Charles Dickens is an English writer and social critic. He is considered as one of the greatest novelists of the Nineteenth century. Dickens used his novels to criticize the social order during the Victorian era. His awareness of social and moral injustice is derived from painful experiences during his childhood. One of his most renowned novels is his second one - "Oliver Twist". The novel has the subtitle "The Parish Boy's Progress" and was published in 1838 by Richard Bentley. In the novel, Dickens has presented the social degradation in England during the Victorian period through the eyes of a young innocent child left to his fate. The novel also drew the publics' attention to the large number of orphans and outcast children in London in that period and the cruel treatment they received. One of the minor but rather important characters in the novel is Jack Dawkins. The author uses the alias - Artful Dodger to give us insight into the character's skills. He is one of the most interesting and controversial characters in the book. He is a reckless young boy who is forced to become a criminal.

The first time the Artful Dodger is mentioned in the book is in chapter eight. Dickens describes him as he emphasizes on his appearance. Jack Dawkins has the size and the body of a young boy but his livery and manners resemble that of a grown man. He wears a man's coat, a hat and corduroy trousers and is labeled by the author as "the young gentlemen". Dickens uses all the things mentioned above, to show us how the society and hardships can influence on one's life. Jack is forced to grow up even though it is not his time yet. He has no other choice but to become a pickpocket in order to survive.

Jack Dawkins is a leader of a group of child criminals. He is the most skilled among them so he has gained their respect. When he first meets Oliver he offers him his help by giving him food and shelter. Later on in the book they become close friends and Jack tries to teach him how to be a pickpocket but unsuccessfully. Dawkins betrays Oliver when he is mistakenly caught and eventually the Dodger himself is captured. Upon entering the courtroom he demands his rights as an Englishman. But even though he considers himself a victim of society, the judge overrules his argument and convicts him of the theft. He is then sent to a penal colony in Australia.

The Artful Dodger is an ambivalent character which makes it hard for the reader to determine whether he is good or bad. Despite his good intentions towards Oliver and his attempt to help him by introducing him to Fagin, this acquaintance did not later bode well for Twist. Although the Dodger is driven to the use of criminal methods to ensure his survival he still maintains positive trades in his character. He takes Oliver under his wing and tries to teach him the only thing he is good at, failing to realize that this is actually doing him harm.

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