Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

      The Secret Garden follows a young girl named Mary. Mary grew up in India but was sent to her uncle’s home in London when her entire family was killed by cholera. Mary’s Uncle Craven lives on a moor in a house with a thousand rooms of which more than a hundred are shut up. There is a story at the manor, that Mrs. Craven had a beautiful garden with thousands of roses. One day Mrs. Craven went to sit on her usual tree branch and it broke, and since then the garden has been locked up and the key buried. Mary goes on a journey where she meets two wonderful friends and finds out that maybe it isn’t so bad living on a dreary moor especially when you have a secret garden to hide and play in.          When Mary arrives at Misselthwaite Manor, she is yellow-skinned and tired, and will not eat. She does not know how to dress herself or put on her shoes because she has always had a governess to do it for her. Mary’s maid Martha who grew up on a moor in a poor family with twelve children and not enough food to go around, teaches Mary how to take care of herself and tells Mary of her small brother Dickon who runs around on the moor all day taming animals, and running and growing and playing. As Mary meets Dickon, Mary’s maid Martha’s little brother, and Colin, Mary’s sickly cousin and inheritor of Misselthwaite Manor, she starts to change. Colin is a spoiled boy that gets everything he wants and everybody does what he says. Colin is convinced that he is going to die, because that is always what people have thought of him. Colin is a depressed boy that throws tantrums in the middle of the night when he doesn’t get what he wants. That is until Mary changes that one evening while he is having the worst tantrum of all. Mary was so fed up that she runs into his room and shouts at him to stop. Colin explains to her that he felt the lump of his hunchback and he is going to die and Mary tells him that half the things that ail him are his hysterics and tantrums. From then on Colin has a positive attitude and starts to get well. He goes out with Mary and Dickon every day to the garden.
            The main theme of the book is not revealed until the very end. Mr. Craven is looking back at the time when he was happy as the narrator explains the following: “Thoughts- just mere thoughts- are as powerful as electric batteries – as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in, you may never get over it as long as you live.”  So as long as Mary’s mind was full of disagreeable thoughts about her dislikes and sour opinions of people, she was yellow-faced sickly, bored and wretched child. But when she let the good thoughts in surrounding moorland and robins and wonderful secret gardens, there was no room left for disagreeable thoughts and she could no longer be a yellow-faced, tired sickly child. And so it was with Colin. So long as Colin shut himself up in his room and thought only of his fears and weaknesses, and his detest of people who were always talking about how he was going to die, he was hysterical and angry and knew nothing of the sunshine or the spring and did not know that he could get well. But when new, beautiful thoughts began to fill his veins, his blood ran healthily and the happiness poured into him like a flood. When we have a happy attitude and do not let wretched thoughts fill our electric battery brains, we are healthier.
           This book is very unique because in the beginning the author creates the main characters Mary and Colin as very disagreeable people. She doesn’t start out making one love the main characters; in fact she does quite the opposite. Until one starts to see the characters develop and change entirely, does one come to love the story. I enjoyed The Secret Garden immensely. I believe that it is a book that all young children should have a chance to read or have someone read to them. The lessons a young person can learn from this book are great. I would definitely recommend reading it if you haven’t already.

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