My top 5… literary adoptees

Since I started writing about adoption, my brain seems to be hard-wired to literary tales of adoption. So here are my top 5 literary adoptees …I am still reading, so the list may change.

great expectations by charles dickens 13-6-14‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens: After the death of his parents, Pip is brought up by his sister and her husband.
“My sister, Mrs Joe Gargery, was more than twenty years older than I, and had established a great reputation with herself and the neighbours because she had brought me up ‘by hand’. Having at that time to find out for myself what the expression meant, and knowing her to have a hard and heavy hand, and to be much in the habit of laying it upon her husband as well as upon me, I supposed that Joe Gargery and I were both brought up by hand.”

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling 13-6-14
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ by JK Rowling: Harry, and his cupboard under the stairs, is probably the most famous literary orphan of modern times.
“We swore when we took him in we’d put a stop to that rubbish,” said Uncle Vernon, “swore we’d stamp it out of him! Wizard, indeed!”

peter pan by JM barrie 13-6-14‘Peter Pan’ by JM Barrie: Peter, the original Lost Boy.
“Don’t have a mother,” he [Peter] said. Not only had he no mother, but he had not the slightest desire to have one. He thought them very over-rated persons. Wendy, however, felt at once that she was in the presence of a tragedy.

when we were orphans by kazuo Ishiguro 13-6-14‘When We Were Orphans’ by Kazuo Ishiguro: Christopher Banks is fascinated by the ‘well-connectedness’ of his fellow student Osbourne.
“… now I look back on it, it seems probable that at least some of my fascination with Osbourne’s ‘well-connectedness’ had to do with what I then perceived to be my complete lack of connection with the world beyond St Dunstan’s [their school].”

jane eyre by charlotte bronte 13-6-14‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte: Jane, probably the literary orphan who made the most impression on me as a teenage reader.
“I was a discord in Gateshead Hall; I was like nobody there; I had nothing in harmony with Mrs Reed or her children, or her chosen vassalage……..they were not bound to regard with affection a thing that could not sympathise with one amongst them; a heterogeneous thing, opposed to them in temperament, in capacity, in propensities; a useless thing, incapable of serving their interest, or adding to their pleasure; a noxious thing, cherishing the germs of indignation at their treatment, of contempt at their judgement.”

Do you know of any other literary orphans? Have I missed out your favourite? If so, please let me know!



‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press]
Read what other readers are saying about Ignoring Gravity.

Do you agree with my other ‘Top 5’ choices?:-
My Top 5… books about writing
My top 5… novels in an English setting
My Top 5… author websites

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
My top 5 literary adoptees from Jane Eyre to Harry Potter via @SandraDanby #books



  1. It is amazing how many stories and movies (which are often based on books) include the theme of adoption (and have included this theme for decades).

  2. Sandra, what a great list this is, what a fabulous idea. Some of the orphans I’ll never forget: Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn; Pollyanna; Heidi; Oliver Twist. Cosette from Les Miserables probably wrings the most tears from me. I think that Dill from To Kill A Mockingbird is also an orphan. His character was based on Truman Capote. I can’t imagine that Shakespeare didn’t have an orphan or two in his cast and the Bible is rife with them. I’ll keep my eyes open for more orphans in literature.

  3. Wasn’t Anne of Green Gables an orphan? If I remember correctly, both her parents died of an illness, and she was moved from house to house until Matthew and Marilla took her in.

  4. If this was my list I’d have to include Heidi – I adored that book when I was a girl. But don’t ask me to decide who should come off your list to make room for her. These are great choices.

    • Oh my goodness I forgot Heidi! I loved that book too as a child, in fact I don’t know what happened to my copy. Possibly passed to my neice who inherited lots of books plus my clarinet! SD