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Literature / Dodger

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"Dodger is a tosher – a sewer scavenger living in the squalor of Dickensian London. Everyone who is nobody knows Dodger. Anyone who is anybody doesn’t. But when he rescues a young girl from a beating, suddenly everybody wants to know him. And Dodger’s tale of skulduggery, dark plans and even darker deeds begins..."

Dodger is a non-Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett, about a tosher (young person who goes down the sewers looking for valuables; they're young because it's not a job that leads to a long life), who rescues a girl from apparent kidnappers, and finds himself in a very complicated situation when some well-off do-gooder charges him with finding out what's going on. Published 13th September 2012.

Contains examples of:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: As noted on that page, Truth In Literature for London, although they're technically storm drains. (At one point Dodger is outraged that rich people have started plumbing their cesspits into the sewers, which weren't designed for that at all.)
  • Actually, That's My Assistant: Invoked by the Outlander, who is known as a man with wildly varying appearances always accompanied by a beautiful lady whom nobody seems to have given much attention to. Turns out she is the Outlander and the men her assistants. Simplicity is the only one who makes the connection.
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  • Affably Evil: Mrs. Holland, who's Nanny Ogg if she ran a brothel with a side business in shanghaiing people.
  • Altar Diplomacy: Simplicity's father-in-law becomes furious after finding out that his son has ruined any chance of forming a 'treaty of flesh' with neighbouring countries by running off with her. It's his efforts to 'fix' this problem which kick starts the plot.
  • Alter Kocker: Solomon
  • And the Adventure Continues: How the book ends.
  • Anti-Villain: Sweeney Todd, whose actions are caused thanks to extreme PTSD. Dodger is more than a little disturbed at how he's treated as a monster in the press and in the stories of Dodger's fight with him
  • The Artful Dodger: Dodger, of course, although he's a bit of a Deconstruction; living on the streets is not happy-go-lucky. He's still quite cheerful most of the time, though; at one point reflecting that someone in his position can't afford to waste time being unhappy about things.
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  • Artistic License – History: In the author's notes at the back of the book Sir Pterry openly admits that there was no point in history when all the Historical Domain Characters were in the roles described in the book simultaneously (For example, while Sir Robert Peel had been Home Secretary at one point in his life, he had left the post before Queen Victoria took the throne). He also notes that the Chronicle changed addresses frequently, but he put it in Fleet Street, because that's where it should have been.
  • Calling Me a Logarithm: Mrs Mayhew describes Dodger as an astute young man. He apologises and says his best trousers are in the wash.
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: Sweeney Todd:
    At some time, somebody must have told Mister Todd that a barber, in addition to tonsorial prowess, should have memorized practically a library of jokes, anecdotes and miscellaneous rib-ticklers, occasionally including - should the gentleman in the chair be of the right age or nature - ones that might include some daring remarks about young ladies. However, the person who had given him this advice had simply not calculated on Sweeney's terrible lack of anything that could be called bonhomie, cheerfulness, ribaldry or even a simple sense of humor.
  • Damsel in Distress: Simplicity is introduced as one, though in the latter parts of the novel she reveals herself to be smarter and more resourceful than she first appears.
  • Dangerously Close Shave: Dodger goes to get a shave from Sweeney Todd. Although he survives the experience (and becomes a hero in the process), the peelers find a cellar full of the corpses of earlier customers who were not so lucky.
  • Dresses the Same: Dodger gets a discount on a suit that had been made the wrong size for a gentleman. Later that day he meets that gentleman, Sir Robert Peel
  • Embarrassing First Name: And last name as well. There's a reason why Dodger prefers to be known by his nickname rather than by his actual name, Pip Stick.
  • Femme Fatale: The Outlander.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Characters are all over the place with this one. Dodger himself, while genuinely affable and friendly to people, has a definite ruthless streak. Then you have the Mayhews, who are both unquestionably good and nice, though perhaps a little too bound up in rules of society to be entirely effective. And of course there's Sir Robert Peel, who under Pratchett's pen owes a lot to Sam Vimes. (Though given that Vimes was heavily inspired by the historical Robert Peel, this isn't much of a surprise.)
  • Historical Domain Character: Charles Dickens, Henry Mayhew, Sir Robert Peel, Benjamin Disraeli.
    • We also get brief cameoes by John Tenniel, George Cayley, Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert show up at the very end.
    • Angela Burdett-Coutts is not a very well-known historical figure, but apparently part of the reason why Pratchett wanted to write this book was to feature her as a character. Likewise Joseph Bazalgette, who really did reform the London sewers.
    • Finally, there are Solomon's references to a fellow Jew he traveled with around Europe avoiding murder, whose zeal for equality of class he quite admired. He was a young man named Karl.
  • In Which a Trope Is Described: For that proper Dickensian flavour.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Dickens and Mayhew, for the Morning Chronicle.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mrs. Sharples, Robert Peel
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to Pratchett's previous non-Discworld novel, Nation, Dodger is a lot more light-hearted and less gruesome. While the novel certainly has its bleak segments, Dodger himself is almost ridiculously lucky and successful in everything he does.
  • Malaproper: Mrs Sharples says "author of the storm" when she means "orphan". Dickens is quite taken by the phrase and makes a note of it.
  • MacGuffin: Charlie describes Simplicity's wedding ring as a "ring which means something". And he's right - it turns out to be a royal heirloom which said royal family desperately want back in their possession, preferably without Simplicity attached to it.
  • Marry for Love: Simplicity and her Prince's marriage was originally this, but it quickly soured into something cruel and abusive once his responsiblities came a-knocking. Dodger and Simplicity's relationship, on the other hand, plays it straight.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: The Artful Dodger meets Sweeney Todd and Charles Dickens and half the Historical Domain Characters in Victorian London.
  • Meaningful Rename: Simplicity's name is ironic, since as she tells Dodger, she's not very simple. By the end she's calling herself Serendipity, which is more so.
  • Mercy Kill: Sweeney Todd has flashbacks that make him think he's doing this.
  • Noodle Incident: Solomon apparently once had an embarrassing encounter with the King of Sweden.
  • Older Sidekick: Solomon
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: We do learn Dodger's name, but he prefers to go by "Dodger," as the name he received when he was sent to the orphanage is incredibly embarrassing.
    • There's also Simplicity, who never reveals her real name (Simplicity being an alias she took up to make it harder to track her down)
  • Prince Charmless: While at first she thought he was a regular Prince Charming, Simplicity's husband quickly morphs into one after his father makes it clear that he's less than pleased about their marriage.
  • Public Domain Character: Sweeney Todd.
  • Rags to Royalty: Simplicity's backstory, though unfortunately she didn't wind up living happily ever after.
  • Recruited from the Gutter: The title character is a street urchin and scavenger from the sewers who lives on his wits. His realisation that there are better things in life, and his introduction to morals and principles, comes first from an old Jewish craftsman, who adopts him, and later from Charles Dickens. Who finds him engagingly interesting.
  • Shout-Out: To Dickens, naturally:
    • Dodger is obviously named after the Artful Dodger from Oliver Twist. His being assigned a random name by the orphanage may be intended as a reference to the title character.
    • At one point Dickens uses the phrase "great expectations" and immediately makes a note of it. This is shortly before learning that Dodger's real name is Pip. He also notes down Dodger's use of the phrase "bleak house", and clearly makes a mental note when Dodger finishes his soup and asks for more.
    • Solomon, the scrupulously honest Jewish watchmaker who seems designed as the exact opposite of The Fagin, at one point reflects "And so I make a sprocket or two."
  • Rescue Romance: Dodger and Simplicity.
  • Spin-Off: Terry Pratchett Presents: Jack Dodger's Guide to London, a non-fiction book in the same format as Terry Pratchett Presents: Miss Felicity Beedle's The World of Poo, which is essentially the world's longest "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer.
  • Unable to Support a Wife: Dodger invokes this on himself at the end of the book, saying he won't marry Simplicity until he can find a better job than toshing. Fortunately, the adventures he got into over the course of the book give him the contacts he needs to find a better job within a chapter.
  • Victorian London
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Sweeney Todd again. He's pretty much stumbling around, sweating heavily and muttering about idiots who try to kick cannonballs while waving his razor blade around. He seems to think that everyone who comes into his shop is horribly wounded, and... gives what help he can.