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The Secret Garden

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Cover of The Secret Garden

Author: Frances Hodgson-Burnett

Age Range: Children+

Period: Early 20th C

Setting: Misselthwaite Manor, Yorkshire

Genres:  ClassicGrowing-Up


Characters:

  • Mary Lennox is a 10-year-old orphan, raised in India, and brought now to live the lonely house of her uncle, Lord Craven.
  • Archibald Craven is Mary's uncle whose wife died after an accident in the walled garden they both loved, leaving him with a sickly son.
  • Colin Craven is Mary's cousin, kept hidden from the world, and who has been indulged in his hysterical belief that he will die young after growing deformed.
  • Martha Sowerby is a young housemaid who becomes friends with Mary and who introduces her to her brother Dickon.
  • Dickon Sowerby is one of Martha's brother, a friend to nature in all its forms, who spends all his days outdoors on the moors, enjoying the company of the wind and the animals.

Synopsis:

Mary Lennox, living in her uncle's lonely house on the Yorkshire Moors, finds the joy of living when she discovers the Secret Garden, locked away ten years before. Helped by Dickon Sowerby, she brings the garden back to life and rescues her cousin Colin from his self-pity.

Notes:

General: This is such a classic book that in one sense there's little to write about. However, if you glance over those books tagged as “Children's Classic” and written before 1930, many of them are quite heavy going by today's standards and have little immediate appeal to the age group. This book, however, is fresh and light but doesn't shirk emotional and human depth. There's a certain timelessness to it, as well: although the setting is clearly a big country house in a time when people lived in big country houses and large grounds with servants, this is merely the setting in which a young girl and a young boy can grow up.

Metaphors: One doesn't have to dig terribly deep to see Mary's discovery of the Secret Garden and her determination to bring it back to life as representing a new beginning in her own life and in that of her cousin Colin, each for different reasons hidden from the world and unable to grow up normally. Likewise, Dickon Sowerby represents the spirit of Nature, so close to the animals and the Moor he loves that he spends whole days out there. Under his touch, and with Mary's new-found love, the garden springs to life. Dickon's mother is the touchstone of homely good sense and the ideal of motherhood. Every character seems to have nothing but good to say about her, even to the point of being a little wearying to our modern ears, less accustomed to eulogy,

Thursday 18th March 2004