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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.
  • 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, as an elderly Jewish watchmaker and a constant source of grumbly, down-to-Earth wisdom for Dodger, is is kind of a Victorian London version of the trope.
  • And the Adventure Continues: How the book ends — Dodger's particular set of skills have been noticed by the Victorian equivalent of MI6, and he's been dispatched to France to steal the plans for a new type of gun.
  • 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 — in-universe, Charlie pretty obviously based the Trope Namer rather heavily on him. He's a bit of a Deconstruction, though, since it's made absolutely clear that living on the streets is not happy-go-lucky. Though he's still quite cheerful most of the time, this is more pragmatic than anything; at at one point he reflects that someone in his position can't afford to waste time being unhappy about things.
  • 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.
  • Born Lucky: There's no denying that Dodger has an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time. For starters, he's survived for a long time as a tosher, and met Solomon, whose reasonably steady work and wisdom ensures that he's housed, fed and (relatively) healthy compared to most street urchins in Victorian London. Then he just happens to be in the right place to rescue Simplicity, and things escalate from there.
  • 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.
  • Cool Old Guy: Solomon, with his comedically over-the-top Expansion Pack Past, easily fits the bill. He escaped a Cossack pogrom in Russia by the skin of his teeth, and still keeps a pepperbox revolver, just in case. He's also a master craftsman, nigh-unbeatable negotiator, familiar with European royalty, and has picked up skills in pretty much anything you can imagine during his travels, much of which involved leaving numerous countries in a hurry.
  • 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.
  • Defiant Captive: Simplicity did not make things easy for her kidnappers. The only reason Dodger is able to save her in the first place is because she managed to get out of the carriage, and that wasn't even the first time she'd done it.
  • Disguised in Drag:
  • 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.
  • Expansion Pack Past: As the book goes on, Solomon's eventful past gets brought up time and time again, until you inevetably start wondering if there's anything he hasn't done at least once.
  • Face Death with Dignity: When Grandad, Dodgers mentor, is crushed by rubble at the start of the book, he accepts his impending demise graciously and spends his final moments having a last drink of brandy and passing on a few parting words of wisdom to Dodger.
  • Faking the Dead: How Dodger manages to throw off the agents of Simplicity's father-in-law hunting her down. He procures the corpse of a young woman with a passing resemblance to Simplicity who was Driven to Suicide, takes Simplicity, dressed as a footman, along with Disraeli, Dickens and Bazalgette, on an expedition into the sewers (based on a dare he'd given Disraeli at Angela's dinner party). He was planning to conceal Simplicity in a hidden alcove in the sewer, and shoot the corpse, pretending that an unknown assassin managed to kill her... But then the Outlander shows up, making his story even more convincing once she's dealt with.
  • Famed In-Story: Dodger becomes the talk of London after taking down Sweeney Todd, and occasionally exploits this reputation to threaten/impress people into doing what he wants. He feels somewhat guilty about this, as Todd was an extremely Tragic Villain and by no means the monster the stories make him out to be.
  • Femme Fatale: In a bit of a twist, the Outlander is revealed to be this. Nobody could ever agree on what the Outlander looked like, only that he always had a pretty lady with him. Turns out that the Outlander is the pretty lady... and she's every bit the ruthless killer that the rumours say.
  • 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.)
  • Hero of Another Story: If Solomon's various anecdotes are true (and there is some evidence that they are) he has led a very eventful life, incorporating many adventures including escaping Cossacks, becoming a member of the Freemason's and an undisclosed incident involving a racehorse in a lodge.
  • 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.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: There's thirty years or more separating Dodger and Solomon, but their friendship is pretty much at Heterosexual Life-Partners levels.
  • In Which a Trope Is Described: For that proper Dickensian flavour, the chapters have titles like this.
    CHAPTER 1: In which we meet out hero, and the hero meets an orphan of the storm and comes face to face with Mister Charlie; a gentleman known as a bit of a scribbler.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Dickens and Mayhew, for the Morning Chronicle. Dickens is the most visibly intrepid of the two; he's out and about a lot more and gets heavily involved in the story. Though as Dodger discovers, Mayhew too gets out and investigates — mostly he investigates the plights of the poor, in the hope that he can convince the government that their situation is intolerable.
  • I Owe You My Life: Solomon takes Dodger in after the youngster rescues him from being beaten to death by some thugs.
  • 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 Name: Solomon certainly lives up to his name, being one of the wisest characters in the story. If he gives advice, it's usually a very good idea to listen.
  • 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.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Played with. Grandad, the oldest tosher in London, is actually only in his mid-thirties, however, given the nature of his chosen profession, this is actually a decent age for a tosher.
  • Noodle Incident: Solomon apparently once had an embarrassing encounter with the King of Sweden, which somehow involved a racehorse in a lodge.
  • Obfuscating Postmortem Wounds: Dodger shoots the young woman's corpse that he obtained so that he could fake Simplicity's death. He feels bad about it and apologises to the corpse.
  • 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)
  • Parental Substitute: Dodger was raised in an orphanage and didn’t know his birth parents but nevertheless has picked up two surrogate fathers. The first is Grandad, a veteran tosher who took Dodger under his wing and taught him the trade, the second is Solomon, who teaches Dodger valuable lessons from his life experiences.
  • 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 appears in the story as a major character.
  • Rags to Riches: Dodger ends up becoming fabulously wealthy due to his adventures throughout the novel - first, he receives a huge sum of money after the people of London start up a collection for the young man who took down Sweeney Todd, and later he comes into even more loot by pillaging the embassy of one of the Germanic states. His new job as a spy at the end of the story appears also to come with the perk of allowing him to nick as much from his targets as he desires.
  • 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."
  • Supreme Chef: Dodger certainly views Solomon as this, reflecting that he could probably take a brick and a block of wood and turn it into a delicious meal. Solomon himself credits all the foraging he had to do in his younger years, when he had to make the best out of what he could scrounge.
  • Rescue Romance: Dodger saves Simplicity from a pair of men who were savagely beating her — and they fall for one another rather quickly after that.
  • Retired Badass: As his ridiculously over-the-top backstory is steadily revealed, it becomes apparent that Solomon is this. Dodger even asks him what on earth a man of his intelligence and skills is doing working as a jeweller and watchmaker in a grotty corner of London. He notes that he simply isn't able to run as fast as he used to.
  • 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.
  • Tragic Villain: Poor, Poor, Sweeney Todd. This version of him was a battlefield surgeon in the Napoleonic Wars, and his mind was so twisted by the terrible things he saw there that he began to see his customers as horrifically injured comrades, who he could only ever help by means of a Mercy Kill...
  • 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.
  • Unintentionally Notorious Crime: Inverted, as an "Unintentionally Consequential Rescue". Dodger saves Simplicity from being beaten by two men, not realising he's just saved a literal princess from agents of her abusive husband, sparking off a major diplomatic row between England and Germany.
  • Victorian London: Apart from a brief trip outside the city, the novel mainly takes place almost wholly in Victorian London, in all its Dickensian glory. It's lovingly described, but also honest about its seedy underbelly, the plight of the poor, and the many everyday tragedies the skewed system and huge class differences created.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: Dodger really doesn't seem to like men who abuse women. It's mentioned that he helped protect some young flower girls from a predatory gentleman, and he springs to Simplicity's aid when he hears her screaming, sparking off the plot.
  • 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.