LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Mary and her garden

on April 11, 2013 2:25pm

The Secret Garden is a magical tale that deals with the healing powers inherent in having a good soul and a good attitude.  Mary’s transformation from a sour puss to a sweet young girl is just one example of the magic she experienced from the goodness of the people around her like Martha and Dickon.  Colin undergoes a similar experience when Mary and Dickon treat him with love and respect and share their secrets with him.

The novel revolves around the transformation of the two children as much as it revolves around the secret garden.  I believe the secret garden could act as a metaphor for Mary’s change into a good little girl.

When Mary finds the garden, she is already starting to become a nicer child.  Her fascination with the robin and her conversations with Ben Weatherstaff have softened a very small part of her.  When she finds the garden, it is overrun with weeds and dead branches, but at the same time, she sees the beauty that’s hiding under all of that and imagines the way it could be if someone would just take the time to take care of it.

As Mary weeds the garden, color comes to her face and she looks more like a natural child instead of her cold, frigid self.  She pulls out the grass and gives the sprouts space to breathe, much as the fresh air from the moor gives Mary more room to breathe and the fresh air does her good.

As Dickon enters the situation, the garden begins to come to life just as Mary begins to become a real child with a real friend her own age.  She becomes enraptured by Dickon and Dickon is obsessed with nature, content to prune it and make it come alive, just as Mary comes alive around him.

Spring comes and the garden blooms completely, but not before Mary has her ultimate transformation and that comes at the hands of Colin.  Mary’s love for him changes her into a good person with a good soul.  Her sympathy for him and her concern for his illness and her faith that he can become strong and healthy all coalesce to make her become a sweet young girl.  Understanding the ways that Colin is selfish and spoiled helps cure her of her own spoiled nature.  When the garden comes into full bloom, Mary, too, comes into herself completely and becomes the sweet little girl she always could’ve been, and the girl the garden helped her to become.


One response to “Mary and her garden

  1. dkamauf says:

    I think this is a very interesting point and speaks to the very nature of this book, no pun intended. I like how you mentioned that the secret garden could be represented as a metaphor for Mary’s emotional maturation and transformation. Even though you mentioned in the beginning that the goodness of people also transformed her, my interest is in the secret garden aspect. I always wondered if the fact that it was a ‘secret’ garden caused her to develop. Because the garden is in fact secret, it makes me certain that Mary is a very curious girl, and with curiosity, the mind develops. As she learns more and more about something secret, her worries and/or troubles disintegrate and are replaced by a thirst for knowledge and happiness. I also think it is really cool that the color of her face changes to a natural color, just as the garden grows. Both entities, the girl and nature, engage in a sense of evolution that is very intriguing. I also think it’s so cool how you mentioned Dickon causes the garden to begin growing because he is determined to prune it, as you said, and while he does this, Mary comes alive. So, it could be seen that Dickon is a gardener of not only plants, but also of human spirit and aspiration.

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