Character Explained (& Who Played Him)

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Summary

  • The Secret Garden explores themes of health, positivity, and the magic of nature, making it a universally beloved novel with numerous adaptations.
  • Dickon is an important character in the story, described as a kind-hearted young boy who has a deep connection with the natural world.
  • The role of Dickon has been portrayed by five different actors in various screen adaptations, each bringing their own unique interpretation to the beloved character.


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Dickon in The Secret Garden is one of the key characters of the classic novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The 1911 novel follows 10-year-old Mary Lennox, a wealthy and spoiled British girl who is sent to live on her uncle’s estate, Misselthwaite Manor. There in Yorkshire, her sour attitude softens as she learns to appreciate the countryside and the kind staff members who live there. Mary soon learns of a locked and secret garden on the grounds, and it’s there she discovers the beauty of nature. The story is a familiar one, introduced early to young people.

The Secret Garden touches on themes of health, positivity, and magic in the natural world. They’re simple ideas wrapped in an intelligent and thoughtful story. So prevalent and universal are the themes that a number of adaptations have been made including the 1993 classic movie starring Kate Maberly as Mary. The pastoral setting, resonant symbolism, and impactful characters have cemented The Secret Garden as a popular novel. These characters are each uniquely and clearly sculpted, and Dickon in particular is an important figure in Mary’s arc as well as her cousin Colin’s.

RELATED: 10 Best Classic Quotes In The Secret Garden Ranked


Dickon Is Martha’s Kind-Hearted 12-Year-Old Brother

Mary and Dickon in the 1993 Secret Garden

Dickon Sowerby is the brother of Martha Sowerby, Mary’s friend and maid at Misselthwaite. He has lived on the moors his entire life and seems to be part of the green land itself, as his eyes are described as blue as the sky, and he is said to smell of “heather and grass and leaves“. When he’s first introduced, Dickon is sitting under a tree, playing panpipes to wild animals. This and his affinity for wild creatures are clear allusions to the Greek god Pan, the woodland Satyr. Throughout the novel Mary compares him to an angel and his understanding of the natural world makes him an almost mystical figure.

Dickon first meets Mary when she discovers the secret garden. Mary and Dickon immediately take a liking to each other and spend much time together there. When Mary’s cousin Colin, who has a disability and uses a wheelchair, is introduced, it’s Dickon who helps Mary bring him to the garden to regain his strength. Dickon is not in the same social class as Mary and Colin, and yet he seems to transcend that barrier due to his relation to the natural world. The secret garden transforms Mary and Colin, and Dickon can be considered an agent of the garden, above any class distinctions.

Dickon Has Been Played By Five Actors On Screen

Amir Wilson as Dickon in The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden has inspired five notable screen adaptations of varying quality and faithfulness. The first, a 1919 silent drama that is now lost, features Paul Willis as Dickon. The second adaptation came in 1949 and had the interesting decision to film in black-and-white but change to Technicolor during scenes set in the garden. Dickon is played by Brian Roper in this version, and he is admirably comfortable delivering lines while handling the live animals the filmmakers surround him with. A 1987 Hallmark made-for-TV movie stars Barret Oliver as Dickon, a more mature and brotherly figure this time around.

The 1993 version of the film is often considered the best of the adaptations and stars veteran actress Maggie Smith as Mrs. Medlock and Andrew Knott as Dickon who at a young age manages to make the character appear legitimately lovestruck with Mary. In the 2020 The Secret Garden, Dickon is played by Amir Wilson who is a bit more animated and rougher than previous versions, providing welcome variety to the beloved character.