I: THE HISTORY OF THE ORPHAN
Where does the Orphan Come From?
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the real-life experience of an orphan was tragic and uncertain. There were no expectations projected onto the future of the orphan’s life. A child unformed and unclaimed, the Orphan was a tabula rasa: a perfect literary protagonist.
In literature the Orphans were differentiated from the true-life tragedy of abandoned and parentless children by transcending a birthright of struggle and affliction. Extricated from desperate and oppressive contexts the Orphan was isolated in a solitary spotlight.
Each novel of the Orphan begins with hardship and isolation. In “The Secret Garden” Mary Lennox’s already negligent parents die and she is forced to live at Misselthwaite Manor, far from the home that she once knew. Abandoned by all other family members, Heidi is thrust into the home of her resentful and reclusive grandfather. Nearly every scenario that Oliver Twist encounters - from the workhouse to the undertaker to the den of thieves – is corruptive and cruel.
The Orphan faces rejection at every turn but perseveres to rise above. Through a combination of ingenuity, charm and good luck the Orphan uncovers a magical escape or wins the hearts of adversaries to land in unforeseen opportunities and accomplish impossible feats.
The triumphs of the Orphan are representative of unique abilities rather than circumstantial luck. It is Mary’s perseverance and curiosity that reveals the garden’s mystery. It is Heidi’s keen perception regarding the motives of others that enables her to navigate unfavorable social scenarios. It is the pathos of Oliver’s raw emotion and vulnerability that inspires the guardianship which leads him to safety and affluence.
Through distinctive and resilient personalities, the Orphan manipulates the surroundings to serve rather than abuse, to accommodate rather than hinder. In these narratives, the Orphan moves from the margin to societies center.