Asides from being intriguing and soul-nourishing, the book is a mixture of spirituality, mystery, and emotions. It piques your imagination and the characters are relatable. It also closes on a happy and fulfilling note.
A Well-Written Story with a Potent Message
Frances Burnett at the beginning of the book introduces us to Mary Lennox. Born to a wealthy family in India and described as being ugly, bad-mannered, and sour, Mary starts the book in a very disagreeable place to the readers. She is described as having a little thin face, a little thin body, thin light hair, and a sour expression. She is said to be a sickly child whose father was always busy and her mother had not wanted a child, hence she abandons her after she’s born.
The reader will be disgusted that Mary’s mother, who was more interested in parties than children, had not taken the necessary measures to prevent herself from having them. She had birthed one, then comfortably ignored her. Mary Lennox had her Ayah tending to her needs, but a servant could only train her boss’s daughter to a certain level. She couldn’t be stern with her, so Mary grew up to be unreasonably spoilt and unpleasant.
‘The Secret Garden’ speaks on the importance of one’s environment. The people you relate with daily determine your attitude, especially when you are young and impressionable. When the only people she has around her are her nonchalant mother and extremely busy father, it is no surprise that Mary turns out uncouth and selfish. But when she moves to her uncle’s manor and relates with the no-nonsense but lovely Martha Sowerby, the kind Susan Sowerby, and the reliable Dickon Sowerby, she is impacted positively. This is the same for her cousin, Colin Craven. The haughty child meets people with better views of life and he soon stops his negative thoughts. He becomes ambitious and confident. When he makes it to the garden, his healing is magical and complete. The magic of good company, positive thoughts, and the garden rests upon him.
The book was written in the third person and the readers can see from the lens of the ten-year-old how people change with the right motivation. ‘The Secret Garden’ takes its readers through a whirl of emotions ranging from irritation, to the gloom, and finally, bliss. You might not own a garden, but you feel like you do when you walk in Mary and Dickon’s shoes. The book achieves a warm, earthly sensation through the deceptively skillful use of simple but realistic dialogues and narration. Stimulated by a potent narrative grace and technique, the reader comes as close as he can get to smelling the Yorkshire air himself, and basking in the healing power of a quaint garden brought back to life.
The book is one of those rare ones that manage to achieve that balance between being simple and relatable enough for children while containing great lessons for adults. Although this is so obviously a children’s book, the author’s campaign for positivity and optimism feels potent and relatable to adults too.
Mr Archibald Craven might be older and wiser, but it took the free-spiritedness and determination of his child and ward to bring that ray of warmth and positivity back into the life of his erstwhile quiet, gloomy and uneventful Manor. The lesson here is similar to the intentions of Jesus when he instructed his disciples to let the children come to him; maybe if we want to find genuine happiness, we have to think and act like children.
A Sad Childhood
Mary is a young girl who only saw her mother once in a while. She is practically raised by servants. This allowed her the opportunity to become tyrannical, selfish, and bad-mannered. She is quite lonely, too.
If you think Mary has it rough, you should meet Colin. He is the same age and all he has ever felt is sadness. Condemned to death by some of the people who nurse him and his father, he lives his life constantly waiting for death to come. On days when the servants do not attend to him the way he wants, he screams the house down. He is so spoilt that there’s a possibility some of the servants hoped for his demise. Colin who is abandoned by his only living parent is believed to be a hopeless invalid. He never goes out of his bedroom in Misselthwaite Manor. He never had the opportunity to inhale the fresh air and freedom of the Yorkshire moors until he meets Mary and then Dickon. The meeting of these two kids marks a turning point in his life.
A Case for the Supernatural
Frances Burnett had subtly challenged science with magic. Colin’s uncle, Dr. Craven, is in charge of his recovery. As much as he would have liked, he is unable to pointedly say what is wrong with his patient. He makes guesses and is sometimes left in a state of surprise at Colin’s well-being. Until Colin is taken to the garden that is believed to possess magical powers, his ailment remains a mystery. In the garden, he gains clarity. He becomes positive. He takes steps away from his wheelchair. He walks.
The Secret Garden book also talks about the importance of nature and plants. Nature is shown to be what gave the children the will and strength to live better lives. It ultimately is their ticket to psychological, then physical healing. Frances Burnett because of her belief in pastoral ways had linked outdoor activities and gardening to happiness and good health. In the bool, Dickon Sowerby has a special love for nature, as well as animals and he is described as the kindest of the children. He is also loyal, outspoken, and reliable. These qualities make Colin and Mary admire him greatly.
Most of the books written by Frances Burnett are aimed at creating happiness. She also successfully passed the message that wealth was not all a child needed to be happy. Mary and Colin’s parents were more affluent than the Sowerbys but were not as happy or well-mannered. If anything, these kids were the first basic teacher’s Mary and Colin had.
The Secret Garden Review: An innocent, simple but potent children's story
Lasting effect on reader
The Secret Garden Review
‘The Secret Garden’ is an innocent, simple but potent children’s story about how a little girl’s discovery of an abandoned garden leads to a profound change in her life and that of those around her. The author utilizes a simple story to advance her thesis about the near-magical power of positive thinking. The book shines in its ability to make the world around come alive through rich, colorful, and realistic descriptions, as well as realistic dialogues. The book makes use of interesting characters who undergo changes throughout the duration of the book. With harmless simplicity and a potent lesson about life, ‘The Secret Garden’ manages to appeal to both the old and young alike.
- A children’s book that manages to be also suitable for adults
- Realistic dialogues
- Strong characterisation
- Great moral lessons
- Seems to advance the cause of pseudoscientific theories about longer-term effects of positive mental states.
- A large chunk of the dialogue features the use of hard to understand local dialects and slangs