LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

The Secret Garden and the Garden of Eden

on April 11, 2013 1:35pm

The Garden of Eden is said to be where God created the first humans, Adam and Eve, and they lived there until the “Fall.” During the time of the Fall, God cast Adam and Eve out of Eden for eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, which they had originally been forbidden to do.

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The Garden of Eden is linked to the secret garden when Martha tells Mary the story of Mistress Craven and the garden’s history. Martha tells Mary of the lovely and peaceful times that Master and Mistress Craven spent within the garden together. These divine times came to an end with the literal “fall” of Mistress Craven, or when she fell out of a tree and to her death in the garden. After this fall, Master Craven banished himself from the garden and locked it up, so that no one could enter, as Mistress Craven’s death had tainted the beauty and sanctity of the garden. This parallels how Adam and Eve’s (less literal, more figurative) Fall caused them to be banished from the Garden of Eden by God.

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Later on, Mary and Dickon reenter the garden together. For them, the garden represents a paradise of beauty and innocence, much like the Garden of Eden and the secret garden originally did for the Master and Mistress Craven. In the garden, the children develop and experience an exceptionally intimate relationship with God. They work to rejuvenate the garden together and seem to become “Adam and Eve,” returning to the garden to right what had been wrong there. The motif of the Garden of Eden adds another dimension to The Secret Garden, and allows the audience another perspective on and another window into the events that take place in the story and, more specifically, in the secret garden itself.

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2 responses to “The Secret Garden and the Garden of Eden

  1. smmejia says:

    I actually thought about the Garden of Eden as well when I was reading The Secret Garden. I kept hoping to find some apple or snake imagery or reference, but there was none that I could see as I read. This may be a stretch, but we might be able to connect the snake and apple to some characters and objects. Perhaps Ben, the gardener, and/or the robin were like the snake who tempted Mary, who represents Eve, into the forbidden secret garden (the tree of knowledge), and the key to the garden is the apple. This does not quite match up as nicely, but there is a sense of Mary being given knowledge she was not supposed to know about Mrs. Craven and her garden and giving into curiosity or temptation.

    It is interesting that you link Mrs. Craven and Mr. Craven to Eve and Adam, and that Mrs. Craven falling from a tree was the fall from God’s grace. The two never returned to that place. Mr. Craven had one “crippled” son, who may represent Cain and Abel, both “good” and “bad” son. Colin cripples himself mentally and physically by believing he is. Colin was never to see the light of day, much less step foot in the secret garden, the garden that Adam and Eve were banished from. If we look at it this way, then maybe Mr. Craven is both Adam and God because he is the one who banishes everyone and himself. I would like to think that this is a sort of rewriting of this Adam and Even Genesis story, and through humanity’s own effort, as Colin and Mary represent as the new Adam and Eve, they become better and “worthier” people so as to be able to re-enter the garden. Then the children invite God back in as can be related back to the scene in which they sing the church song, and God, or rather, Mr. Craven, returns to the garden lifting the ban and welcoming Adam and Eve back into paradise.

  2. thethenabean says:

    Great post, Brittany!

    You’ve drawn some great parallels here between The Secret Garden and that famous moment from the book of Genesis, the fall of Adam and Eve. It’s definitely true that there are certain images and motifs that are clearly indicative of the Creation story – namely, the garden itself. However, I think that are also a number of things that don’t align. While Mistress Craven’s fall from the tree could arguably be similar to the “fall” of Eve, there is none of the element of original sin for the Cravens that fuels the entire premise of that story in the bible. The Cravens are with child but it is within wedlock, which is certainly not a sin or a loss of innocence. If anything, the sins committed are largely once the garden has been sealed off; for example, Master Craven’s neglect of his son could be considered evidence of a “loss of innocence.”

    However, I do think it is very interesting that the second generation, so to speak, of the Garden is so similar to Adam and Eve. Mary and Dickie are certainly the “innocents” that Adam and Eve were when they first entered the garden. It is interesting though that, in contrast with Adam and Eve, the garden fortifies their morality, rather than leading them astray from it. Their experience in the garden is somewhat the converse of Master and Mistress Cravens’ – the Garden brings them back to life, where it took the life – one literal, one figurative – of the Cravens. Perhaps the message then is that redemption is always possible, and that one bad experience should never cause you to close something away forever.

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