Academic Articles

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Incarnations of the Orphan

Nina Auerbach

1975

For decades Nina Auerbach's article on representations of the orphan was one of the few on the topic. She writes: "For it is an easy sentimental mistake to think of the orphan as fragile. He seems composed of alternate layers of glass and steel, and sends out sting rays at those who try to adopt him. He first appears in the eighteen century as a slyly potent underground figure...But even the Romantic waif is brimming with a certain equivocal energy...His solitude eneregizes him as a visionary artist, and silent schemer, his appearance of winsome fragility feeding into his pwoer of survival." Auerbach's analysis includes Moll Flanders, Jane Eyre, Becky Sharp, Healthcliff and Pip of Great Expectations