Date of Graduation

5-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

English

Advisor

Danny Sexton

Committee Member

Amy Witherbee

Second Committee Member

Susan Marren

Abstract

J.K. Rowling includes many Dickensian-esque characters in her Harry Potter series. This thesis compares the characters seen in Rowling's series with many of Charles Dickens's characters, specifically those seen in David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, and Bleak House. Rowling's work is similar to Dickens's novels in many ways. The most interesting connection between the two is how they treat the characters on the periphery of the societies they have created, most notably their orphans, servants, and women.

Orphans are their most obvious comparison. Each author based their texts on the story of an orphan. However, there is more to their orphan connection than just a simple orphan-on-the-doorstep story. Dickens and Rowling utilize their orphans, Harry, David, Oliver, and Esther, to garner sympathy from their readers, which gains interest in their stories. Their orphans are closely associated to death, which emphasizes their precariousness in life and their relationship to their anonymous, deceased parents.

Dickens and Rowling's servant characters are vital to their orphaned protagonists' lives and to the narrative itself. Characters such as Peggotty and Hagrid offer great moral support and love to their protagonists, David and Harry; however, Dickens and Rowling are contradictory in their representation of these beloved characters. Servant characters also have proved themselves to be self-sacrificing for the narrative and for the orphans, as seen in the characters of Jo, Nancy, and Dobby.

Finally, Dickens and Rowling have a contradictory approach to their women. They give a quiet power to their seemingly powerless women. Characters, like Ginny and Agnes, appear powerless because they are often the romantic interest for the male protagonist. Yet Rowling's women possess a quiet power found in the responsibilities placed upon the angel in the house. Finally, each author places power in the hands of women, such as Esther, Nancy, and Ginny, in their ability to write.

This thesis examines how Rowling includes Dickensian characters in her series. It notes how the two authors use their peripheral characters to emphasize the affects their characters have on sympathetic readers.

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