“The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a tale of
Mary Lennox, a ten year old girl. She is ugly, ill-tempered and viciously
demanding. She is “as tyrannical and selfish a little pig has ever lived.” At
the start of the story she is living in India with her British parents where
she is placed under the constant care of a number of native servants because
her parents would rather spend time going to parties. The servants must obey
her every whim.
Mary’s circumstances change dramatically when an outbreak of
cholera kills both her parents, leaving no one alive but herself. She is then
sent to Misselthwaite Manor in England to live with her Uncle, Archibald
Craven, a hunchback.
Not long after arriving, Mary briefly meets her uncle who is
still mourning over his late wife, but she is mostly left on her own. One day
Mary hears about a secret garden from Martha Sowerby, her good-natured
Yorkshire maidservant. Eventually she finds the overgrown mysterious secret
garden that has been shut up for ten years. Even more mysteriously, she meets
her cousin, Colin, a sickly boy who has been told he must stay out of the
daylight at all times. Not long after, she befriends Martha’s brother, Dickon.
They together along with Colin, help the secret garden come alive again that
will change several lives.
The Secret Garden should definitely be in the library on the
reading list for early teenagers. It has many worthy principles that are rich
and interesting, such as human companionship, home is where the heart is and
happiness. These are feelings and emotions that do happen to the everyday
person and influence our everyday lives. The main theme in The Secret Garden is
human companionship. Mary and Colin grew up around a great deal of anxiety and
negative thinking because they lacked paternal love. This in turn caused them
to become bitter and selfish because they are lonely and friendless. They
require the company of other people to check their selfish impulses and inspire
their inner kindness. As soon as they begin to attach themselves to each other,
to Dickon and the world around them, they become kinder and more understanding.
Another theme the book embraces is home. Mary who lives in
India for most of her life did not care or miss it when she had to leave. It is
only when she starts to make friends and learn to care about the Secret Garden
that she feels what home means. Similarly, Colin lives his whole life in his
house behind closed doors since he was born, but it doesn’t become his home
until he finds a way to connect with the environment and with the ghost of his
mother. The Secret Garden clearly depicts home is not just shelter or basic
needs. Home is a place where you can find emotional support and care.
One last important theme the book conveys is the moral
message, happiness. To be happy you have to be less selfish. Ideally, the
secret to happiness is to think less about yourself and more about the other
people and the surrounding environment around you. This is portrayed through
Mary and Colin in the novel. Mary and Colin are unhappy when they have nothing
to think about but themselves, but Dickon and Mrs. Sowerby are both deeply
happy because they care and think of their family. However, as soon as both
Mary and Colin start to care and help the people around them and the secret
garden they become happy and cheerful.
The novel “The Secret Garden” should definitely be placed
onto the reading list for teenagers. It communicates the themes of human
companionship, home and happiness which we can all relate to and learn from so
we can all grow up into confident adults.