The Secret Garden is ostensibly a children’s novel – the protagonist is a youthful girl of ten years of age – and comes off as a weird-mix of Victorian and Edwardian novel child mixed with British imperialism. To sum up, Mary is a naïve child and yet, despite her naivety, the side characters are constantly engaged in adult sexual activities throughout the entirety of the book. One example of this include the “lesser” servants romping on page 67 when the watchful presence of Mrs. Medlock is absent. Two other major characters participate in either implied or explicit sexual activity. The first, the implied, comes from Martha who tells Mary after she returns from her day off: “I didn’t walk all th’ way. A man gave me a ride in his cart an’ I can tell you I did enjoy myself.” The “ride in his cart” that she enjoyed can easily be seen as Martha and the man in the cart having sex.
The second, more explicit, example comes from Ben in referencing the red-breasted Robin when he states that he has been “reddinin’ up thy waistcoat an’ polishin’ thy feathers this two weeks.” Implying both a masturbatory image as well as a potential sexual relationship between the robin and his lovers, both in the past and future.
The reasoning behind all this sexuality, I feel, lies in what I feel is the coming of age story of the story. It is about a woman maturing: Mary goes from a sickly child to a healthy Victorian girl (as well as the significant transformation of Colin). To seal this idea of Mary growing up I’d like to look at one final image of overt sexuality in The Secret Garden: the titular garden. The Secret Garden is an overt reference to the female vagina: specifically, in a sense, Mary’s. Its “untended” nature references the youthfulness of Mary and the blooming of the Garden reflects a girl maturing and blooming into adulthood, more specifically: the blooming of the roses symbolize the menzies (blood) that accompanies a girl’s transition into and life as a grown woman.
Thus, as you can see, the transitioning from childhood to real adulthood – more specifically womanhood- and sex is tied throughout the entire piece and is integral to the story as a whole.