How would one describe Dickon in Frances Hodgson Burnett's book The Secret Garden?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Frances Hodgson Burnett's children's novel The Secret Garden, the character Dickon is the 12-year-old brother of Martha, a maid in the manor protagonist Mary has come to stay in. The story progresses quite a bit before Mary gets to meet Dickon in person, but Martha is very talkative. The more Mary hears about Dickon from Martha, the more she admires Dickon and wants to meet him.

One thing that stands out about Dickon is he is an extremely caring and gentle person. He is so caring and gentle that animals flock to him. Examples are seen in the fact that he adopted a wild pony foal he found on the moor. He also goes out onto the moor to care for sheep and other animals. As Martha phrases it, "[B]irds as comes an' eats out of his hand." Plus, even though Martha's family is poor, Dickon always saves bits of what he has to eat to share with the animals. Beyond caring for animals, he cares for everything having to do with nature. He is even described as knowing how to make all things grow.

When Mary finally does get to meet Dickon, we see that he very closely symbolically represents the Ancient Greek god Pan, who was the caretaker of all animals and nature. Dickon is described as having "curly, rust-colored" hair, and when Mary first sees him, he is sitting beneath a tree playing a pipe, just as Pan was known to play a pipe he used to charm animals.  As Dickon plays, a squirrel clings to the tree and watches him; a pheasant watches him from a bush; and two rabbits stand near him on their hind feet, sniffing and watching.

Dickon proves to be just as kind and caring towards people as he is towards nature as he becomes the very first friend that Mary and later Colin have ever had. Furthermore, he becomes a central character in helping both Mary and Colin overcome their insecurities and become at peace with themselves, just as Dickon is at peace.

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