The Secret Garden

by: Frances Hodgson Burnett

Dickon Sowerby

Dickon Sowerby is, in some sense, the spirit of Missel Moor. His eyes are described as looking like "pieces of moorland sky," and he smells of "heather and grass and if he were made of them." When the reader first encounters him, he is sitting beneath a tree charming animals with the music of his wooden pipe. This immediately conjures the image of panpipes, and serves to associate Dickon with the god Pan. He therefore is presented as having an uncannily close relationship with the wilderness and with wild things. He tells Mary that "Sometimes I think perhaps I'm a bird, or a fox, or a squirrel... and I don't know it." Mary compares Dickon's pipe playing with the way "natives charm snakes in India." Throughout the novel, Mary and Colin perceive Dickon as thrillingly strange and exotic: like the Indian natives, he speaks a different language (his Yorkshire dialect). Also like the Indians, he is visually marked as different from Mary and Colin—his difference is one of class, however, rather than of race. Mary comments several times upon Dickon's patched clothes and rough hair, as well as on the coarse simplicity of his food. This class difference is an extremely provocative one for Mary: she is instantly drawn to Dickon, and her revelation of the garden to him is full of implicit eroticism. It's as though she were displaying herself to him, on the one hand; on the other, it is underwritten by the extremely charged notion of "letting him inside." Mary describes him as "beautiful," and as "a Yorkshire angel": Dickon is, in some measure, above mere class distinctions, because he is the representative of divine nature. He, as much as the secret garden, is the agent of both Colin and Mary's transformations. He himself, being already ideal, does not change at all.