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Academic Articles

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Oliver Twisted: the origins of Lord Voldemort in the Dickensian orphan.

James Washick


Given the theatrical extremities of Harry Potter's birth, early childhood and treatment, we could expect some similarities between Charles Dickens' Victorian waif, Oliver Twist, and the boy wizard, to the point that we might reasonably trace Harry’s origins to his literary predecessor. However, while such an attempt might uncover places where Rowling’s creation in some ways faces similar circumstances as Dickens’, for the most part, Rowling gives a backstory and characterization to Harry which diverge so greatly from Oliver and his workhouse experiences that other similarities seem largely superficial. Instead, if we seek to find the influence of Oliver Twist, we find the most convincing comparison not with the protagonist of Rowling’s series but with the villain, for in Tom Riddle, the boy who will become Lord Voldemort, we find the true inheritor of the Dickensian model.

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