Bull’s-eye, Agency, and the Species Divide in Oliver Twist: a Cur’s-Eye View

  • Jennifer McDonellEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature book series (PSAAL)


An animal-centered reading of Oliver Twist reveals that while animals are used as metaphors for human traits and actions, there is a pervasive ambiguity in Dickens’s representation of the dog Bull’s-eye, a recalcitrance that survives analogy. Crucially, Bull’s-eye’s behavior is more explicable than that of major protagonists (for example, Oliver and Bill Sikes). Bull’s-eye is a site for the displacement of an unresolved anxiety that was at the heart of debates over the so-called New Poor Law: namely, whether human destiny was shaped by environment or heredity. Bull’s-eye is invested with what Animal Studies scholars describe as feral agency, possessing an agentive function in the diegesis of the novel that cannot be fully contained by metaphor and metonymy.


Dickens, Charles Oliver Twist Feral agency New Poor Law (1834) 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia

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