Monday, April 18, 2011

Interview #6

William "Bill" Sikes first appeared in 1836, when a serial in a magazine edited by an young writer who saw fit to lead off with his second novel, Oliver Twist, drew immediate attention.  Of all Charles Dickens' many novels, each seeming to deal with a different segment of society, Oliver Twist was memorable for bringing the working classes to life with the then equivalent force evoked by the 2002-08 television series, The Wire.  Sikes was a violent, uneducated man, a some-time associate of the master criminal, Fagin, beyond much doubt engaged in criminal activities because he had scant option to do otherwise.  He is a clear product of a statement being made by his creator, who could well have been seeing himself in some of Sikes' behavior. A number of filmed versions of Oliver Twist have appeared over the years, none more evocative in its presentation of Sikes than the one featuring the actor Robert Newton.  Sikes was frequently accompanied by his bull terrier, Bull's Eye, whom Sikes was seen to beat with some regularity.

Interviewer:  You've won the reputation of being utterly without redeeming quality among all Dickens' characters.  Are you comfortable with that.

Sikes:  Bleeding liberal he was when he wrote that story.  Still angry about his own upbringing and humiliations.  To him, we was more than just driven to crime, you understand.  To him, we was luxuriating in it, so to speak.  Acting out our plight, so to speak.  Wasn't there that time when we had a caper in the countryside and young Oliver, he fell and got his self hurt?  And didn't old Bill here, carry the lad to safety?  And what about all those times I was a great comfort to my Nancy, cosseting her here and there, encouraging her to have another go at life?

Interviewer:  But isn't it also true that after the botched robbery where Oliver was injured, you left Oliver unprotected and ran for safety?

Sikes:  Wasn't I running off to get help for the boy?  Wasn't I worried he'd hurt hisself?  You see the way of it, don't you?  Fellow like Dickens,he forgets how it was when he was in the game.  Next thing I know, you'll be turning on me like that ungrateful Nancy, who was the love of me life.

Interviewer:  While we're on the subject, there is some thought that your relationship with Nancy was more like, shall we say pimp to prostitute.


Sikes:  That's not the way of it at all, mate.  Mind, there was plenty of that going on in Mr. Dickens' London and all.  Nancy, she enjoyed her frolics, and we both got to thinking, why not bring in an occasional spot of coin to pay for our afternoon tea, don't you see?  So I ups and volunteers, Love, I'll be yer manager.  But it was nothing like I made her do it or any such thing.


Interviewer:  There are those who say Fagin was afraid of you.


Sikes:  Look, we're all of us in the Game,don't you know.  We have our little quirks and all.  What I'm sayin' is, Mr. Dickens was looking out for them kids being abused.  Couldn't come right out and say what Fagin was thinking with some of those young lads, that Dodger and such.  I told Fagan right off the bat, I didn't want to see no part of that, and while I was at it, I let him know not to even think of it, you understand.  So maybe I was a bit forceful once or twice in explaining my point of view.  Afraid of me, you say?  Lord, I should hope so.


Interviewer:  Was it really necessary for you to beat Nancy to death?

Sikes:  Don't be blaming me for that, gov.  I was just doing what Mr. Dickens wanted.  Although I got to say, she betrayed me.  Had a good thumping coming for that, don't you know?

Interviewer:  Could you please not hold my collar so tightly?  Thank you.  Now this one final question, speaking of betrayal:  Isn't it true that your own dog, Bull's Eye, led the police to you when you were on the run from killing Nancy?


Sikes:  Never liked that damned dog.  Mr. Dickens, he stuck me with the bloody cur.  And look how it played out.  Damned dog, led John Law right to me.  All this blather about man's best friend.  They just wait for their opportunity.  Then--


Interviewer:  My collar, please.  Thank you.  Then--?


Sikes:  Then they pounce.

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