Charley Bates, the unusual companion of the Artful Dodger is an important member of Fagin’s gang. It is mainly these two young boys who are given the joy of picking pockets and introducing other young people to take to a life of crime. When Oliver is introduced to the gang, he is very soon advised to take the Dodger and Master Bates as his models. Fagin tells him that if he follows the two assiduously, he will soon prosper.
Charley Bates is always gay and mirthful. With his perpetual tendency to find things uproariously funny, he helps a great deal to relieve the gloom and tension of Fagin’s world, This is the one major difference between Bates and the Dodger. The Dodger can never be as lighthearted and sprightly as Bates.In chapter 9, he heartily laughs at Oliver’s display of ignorance. Oliver thinks that the two young boys are engaged in some honest and hard work and he makes a sincere promise that he will try to follow them. This makes Bates burst into a loud peal of laughter again, and has a loud laugh when both he and the Dodger escape after having picked Mr Brownlow’s pocket while the poor Oliver is apprehended. Oliver’s recapture also throws him into a violent outburst of joy. He looks at Oliver’s new suit and the beautiful books that he was carrying and finds it a great occasion to feel happy. Dickens says that he laid him self flat on the floor, and kicked convulsively, in an ecstasy of joy. His attitude to their way of life is summed up when he declares that it is such a jolly game.
Of all the characters in Fagin’s gang it is only Charley Bates who gets disillusioned with it. The Dodger’s arrest makes him feel depressed and sobered. He is almost sure that the Dodger will be transported for life. It is not the punishment that makes him feel sorry; it is the fact that the Dodger has been caught for having stolen an ordinary cheap snuff box. Nancy’s coldblooded murder by Sikes opens his eyes fully and when we next meet him,we find him quite prepared even to risk his life to bring Sikes to justice. On Jacob’s Island, it is he alone who proclaims that he is going to give Sikes up and even strikes him violent1y. He doesn’t feel daunted by the fact that Sikes is much stronger than he is and although Sikes shuts him into a room he keeps shouting to the crowd to keep a watch on the rear of the house and to capture him if he tries to escape from that side. It is mainly because of his shouts that Sikes makes a perilous bid to escape and gets killed int he process.
Of all Fagin’s gang, it is Charley Bates alone who escapes the consequences of their crimes and who turns to an honest life. In chapter 53 when Dickens is distributing rewards and punishments, we are told that Charley Bates struggled hard; and suffered much, for sometime; but, having a contented disposition and a good purpose, succeeded in the end and from being a farmer’s drudge, and a carrier’s lad he is now the merriest young grazier in all Northamptonshire.