A classic that is a delight to read.
The Secret Garden is probably the most amazing and thought-provoking children’s book ever written. Such a profound insight into the hearts and minds of the main characters Mary, Colin, Dicken, etc- a little romanticized perhaps but still amazing.
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The story is set in Yorkshire and it starts with a kind of dark Gothic atmosphere with Mary stuck in this monstrous and spooky house and her only comrade of sorts is the servant girl Martha – Dicken’s elder sister. The house at night is filled with all sorts of horrible tormented wailing which Mary bravely follows until she meets her bedridden and hypochondriac cousin Colin, the heir of the great manor house who is certain he is crippled, deformed, and destined to die at a young age. He is incredibly neglected by his father who has been mourning for a decade or so over his late wife who dies tragically in the Garden. After that, he locks the Garden and closes it forever.
“The main theme of the book the Garden itself symbolizes a kind of Paradise Lost that must be regained through the spiritual innocence”The Book Guide® Editor
The company of Mary cheers the child up a bit, but it is not until he hears stories of the Secret Garden that Mary has just rediscovered that his interest in life is renewed. Eventually, with the help of Martha’s little brother Dicken, the Master of animals, plants, and all other sorts of enchantment, the Secret Garden is brought to life again and Colin finally has something to live for other than his imaginary hump and other illnesses.
The main theme of the book the Garden itself symbolizes a kind of Paradise Lost that must be regained through the spiritual innocence, love, and life-affirming Joy of the three children. Dicken is the Nature child in the story, a kind of Pan figure and the symbol of the pure rustic peasant child who, with his ability to charm animals and breathe life back into the soil, works miracles on first Mary who is the Keeper of the Secret Garden and then on Colin – who, as the heir of the Manor itself, is its owner.
A final miracle takes place at the end of the book which although stretching our gullibility as readers to the limit brings about the perfect resolution to the story. It is a lovely plot twist that not only reunites father and son again but also restores the social order of things left by a ten-year-old tragedy and the abandonment of the Father’s duties as Lord of the Manor.
This book was written towards the end of the 19th century about a time when the social order of England and societies links with Mother Nature and the pastoral idyll of the country life was viewed as sacrosanct – The author lived in a time that had not been devastated by two world wars, the Holocaust, Hiroshima and the current trend of globalization, the digital revolution, and the infotainment society.
It is therefore a pretty slow-paced book, filled with didactic passages and pretty morals, as well as gushing Romantic sentimentalism. Even in the time, it was written it is clear that the novel looks back to a Golden Age where the servants, villagers and their liege Lord were meant to live in a social harmony of bliss and harmony based on a set hierarchical structure ordained by God himself. It is also clear that it draws upon the old Renaissance idea of Mother Nature as being God’s second book of revelation and instruction (the first book being the Bible). As such Nature is viewed in a non-Darwinistic sense. Instead of being Red in tooth and claw, Nature is both a guide and teacher as well as a benevolent and nurturing Mother – She is the Fairy Queen of the New Eden which awakens at the touch of those like Dicken, Mary, and Colin who see her with pure vision.
Dicken of course is the High Priest of this Eden, he is an archetypal Pan figure, the go-between for Mother Nature and the Fallen Adam and Eve of her world, Colin and Mary. When he connects them both back to their original link to her, the two are enthralled and awaken not only to the Secret Garden around them, but also the Secret Garden inside their hearts and souls.
Colin and Mary both call this mystical awakening to Nature’s Wisdom, White Magic and when he discovers its amazing healing powers, Colin vows that he will write books on the mystery of this magical force inside him and the Secret Garden. When the world learns of this Magic and Knowledge then all its problems and misery will disappear and the Paradise that existed on the morning of the world will be regained. This is a very odd idea for us in our time, but you have to remember that in those days Milton’s Paradise Lost, along with Tennyson’s Idylls of the King were two of the most important and influential books in the period. So the idea of regaining the Lost Paradise of Eden was not out of the question for people of the 19th century!
The film I think that was based on the book I thought was also amazingly beautiful.
There was a second book written Back to the Secret Garden, based on the first. But this book was written post-WW II and the age of England’s innocence along with the mystique of her Gardens was no longer there anymore, was it?
The Secret Garden Book By Frances Hodgson BurnettThe Secret Garden Book By Frances Hodgson Burnett
by The Book Guide® Editors4.5/5 Very good