Skip over navigation

The Secret Garden

Frances Hodgson Burnett

Chapter XX-Chapter XXII

Chapter XVIII-Chapter XIX

Chapter XXIII

Summary

Chapter XX

Though a week of windy chill delays Colin's first outing, Dickon visits the manor house daily to bring Colin and Mary news of the garden and of the advancing spring. Colin is adamant that the garden's secrecy be preserved, and the three children plan a means of bringing him there without making the location of the garden known to all. Colin summons the head gardener, Mr. Roach, to his chamber and commands him to keep everyone away from the garden paths and walls, as he intends to go out that afternoon. Roach, speaking to Mrs. Medlock outside Colin's room, remarks upon Colin's regal bearing and casual tone of command. Medlock replies that Mary's influence will temper that tendency in Colin—she will show him that the whole of the world does not belong to him. During lunch, Colin tells Mary how eager he is to see the spring, as he has never seen it before. Mary replies that, as there is no springtime in India, she too had never seen it before coming to Misselthwaite. Colin's nurse then dresses him, and a footman carries him out in his wheeled chair. He is delighted by the greenness of the landscape and the smell of new flowers in the air. As they walk toward the secret garden, Mary points out for Colin all of the places she mentioned in her stories of the moor. Colin is enraptured, and his eyes grow larger and larger—"as if it were they which were listening—listening, instead of his ears." In the garden itself, Colin's ivory skin begins to grow rosy, as though he were being brought to life. He exclaims that he will get well, and "live forever and ever and ever."

Chapter XXI

In the garden, Mary and Dickon begin speaking Yorkshire dialect, and, for the first time, Colin joins them. He wonders aloud if the beauty of the landscape is not, perhaps, somehow intended for him. Mary and Dickon set about showing him all the treasures of the garden, but hesitate when Colin asks about the great gray tree from which his mother fell to her death. Dickon remarks that roses will soon grow over its bark, hiding the dead wood and making it the loveliest thing in the garden. By a stroke of magical good fortune, the robin briefly appears and distracts Colin from his contemplation of the tree. Mrs. Sowerby, Dickon's mother, suspects that Colin's mother is somehow still in the secret garden, still watching over her son, and that it is her influence that has brought the three children to the garden. Privately, Mary believes this to be a part of what she calls "Magic," of the kind that Dickon works on everything that comes near to him. Colin tells Mary and Dickon that he intends to come out with them every day, and that soon he shall walk on his own and be strong enough to work in the garden. Suddenly, the furious face of Ben Weatherstaff appears over the garden wall; he is astonished to see the children in the formerly locked garden. In his shock at seeing Colin, Ben Weatherstaff calls him "the poor cripple" and asks if he has crooked legs and a crooked back. Colin is incensed, and, with surprising strength, suddenly rises from his wheeled chair and commands the old man to look at him, so that Ben might attest to his unquestionable soundness. He then instructs Ben Weatherstaff to join them in the garden, so that he might speak with him.

Chapter XXII

Mary runs out to meet Ben Weatherstaff, leaving Dickon and Colin in the garden. Colin asks Dickon if it is his Magic that makes it possible for Colin to stand; Dickon replies that it is not his, but the same Magic that makes the flowers grow. Mary, during her walk back to the garden, chants encouragement to Colin under her breath, thinking that this, too, is a form of Magic. Ben Weatherstaff enters the garden and finds Colin standing quite straight (though he is surreptitiously leaning against a nearby tree). Ben Weatherstaff tells Colin that he is only able to keep his position at Misselthwaite because Mistress Craven was fond of him. Ben also informs the children that he has secretly come to the garden once a year for ten years, as Mistress Craven had asked him to care for it if anything were ever to happen to her. Ben, despite the locked door, stubbornly obeyed her orders. Colin announces that it is now his garden, though he will permit the old man to come there as well—provided that Ben keeps the secret. Before the sun sets, Colin ceremoniously plants a single rose to mark the garden as his own.

Analysis

Both Colin and Mary have suffered from what might be called "want of spring": Colin has never seen the springtime because he has always been bedridden, and Mary "never saw it in India because there wasn't any." Since springtime is associated with beauty, joy, and life in The Secret Garden, this rather extraordinary statement suggests that India possesses none of these things. Once again, India is aligned with unhappiness and death. This association cannot help but smack of implicit racism—the people of Indian are aligned with these things as well. When Colin is finally taken out into the garden, his eyes ravenously devour the landscape; the narrator remarks that it is "as though [his eyes] were listening- listening, instead of his ears." It is Colin's eyes that listen to the sounds of spring because, of course, they are somehow his mother's eyes - it is that part of him that is her that answers the call of the spring. The changes that Colin undergoes upon entering the garden imply that the landscape has a power comparable to that of resurrection (the bringing of dead things back to life) or animation (the bringing of inanimate persons or things to life). Colin begins to look as if he is made of flesh rather than "ivory"—it is as though he were formerly a statue, or a corpse, who is only just now coming to life. Similarly, the garden brought color to Mary's "waxy features"; the words "waxy" and "ivory" can imply dead or inanimate (nonliving) objects. The tree from which Colin's mother fell to her death can also be said to undergo a kind of resurrection: though it is the only thing in the garden which is wholly dead, it will soon "be covered with new roses," so that the dead wood is no longer visible. The new roses symbolize both the children and the spirit of Colin's mother herself, which has never really left the garden. It is the magic of her spirit (as well as Dickon's magic) that causes the robin redbreast to appear just when Colin asks his "dangerous question." Colin attempts to appropriate his mother's garden by planting a single rose; this is, as Ben Weatherstaff notes, the way kings take possession of a new place. Although it appears that the natural landscape colludes (conspires) with this desire (because the sun does not go down until Colin has planted his rose), it in fact only supports his desire to be well. That is, it is not wholly Colin's garden—it is Mary and Dickon's as well. Though the trees are "like a king's canopy, a fairy king's," the reader is given to understand that the fairy king is not Colin, but Dickon. This is borne out by the passage in which Mary and Dickon present the garden to Colin: the narrator describes it as " being taken in state round the country of a magic king and queen and shown all the mysterious riches it contained." The phrase "being taken in state" implies that Colin is a kind of visiting king, whose powers are earthly; the Magical (fairy) king and queen, however, are unquestionably Dickon and Mary, and the garden is their country. The garden is repeatedly described as having a fairy-tale quality in this chapter. Colin is terribly excited to see what he had only heard about through narration and story; for both he and Mary, story lent life to things that they could not otherwise have seen. Examples of this include Mary's reading of fairy stories in India, Colin's reading of books, Martha's tales to Mary, and Mary's tales to Colin. Stories, the novel suggests, provide when life does not - but life is absolutely the more valuable in Hodgson Burnett's economy). There is even an explicit reference to fairy tales: Colin's eyes "were as big as the wolf's in Red Riding-Hood, when Red Riding-Hood felt called upon to remark upon them." The fact that Colin's fury at Ben Weatherstaff provides him with sufficient strength to stand reinforces the notion that Colin's inability to do so was entirely a product of his negative thoughts. It also underlines the idea that if one only wishes to overcome one's illness, one can. Both of these ideas are taken, with very little alteration from the tenets of Christian Science. The mad chanting that Mary does to aid Colin recalls the prayers recited by Christian Science medical practitioners. These "medical" practitioners attempt to cure their patients through prayer, rather than through any medical or holistic treatment. Dickon remarks that the same magic that makes Colin stand is the one that makes the flowers work out of the earth. This suggests that one of the forms magic takes is that of what might be called the life principle (the force that animates all things). This section is full of Christian and Christian Scientist undertones: the sky looks down upon the children "like wonderful eyes" - the eyes of the Christian God, we may presume. Colin's exclamation that he "shall live forever and ever and ever" necessarily recalls the Christian promise of eternal life in paradise. The narrator's extended meditation on this feeling reveals that Hodgson Burnett is drawing heavily upon the work of Immanuel Kant (a German philosopher of the Enlightenment) in establishing the feeling's source. The narrator says that one may have this sense that one will live forever when one looks at a sunset; when one stands in a deep wood; when looks up at the immense night sky. Tellingly, all of these examples are drawn from nature. Kant, in his book Critique of Judgment, said that one will often, when confronted with a truly immense natural landscape (his examples include the ocean and a mountain) have a feeling he called "sublime." This sublime feeling occurs because the hugeness of the landscape implies the hand of God; that is, in regarding it, we realize that there is a force and an intelligence infinitely larger than our own behind the composition of the world. Thus, the experience of nature provides Burnett's children with a realization that they are going to live forever because it assures them of the presence of god: if the Christian god exists, then eternal life exists. Hodgson Burnett hopelessly confuses the work of Kant, however, when she says that this feeling also makes Colin belief that the world was made for the purpose of him; it as though "the whole world [devoted] itself to being...radiantly beautiful [for] one boy." This is clearly drawn from Kant's notion of the beautiful, which he rigorously distinguished from the sublime: for Kant, beautiful things impress the viewer with a sense of what he called "purposiveness." Purposiveness means that one has the sense that the beautiful thing is made especially for the visual pleasure of the person who contemplates it. Hodgson Burnett thoroughly mixes the beautiful and the sublime in her feeling that one will live forever; it will recur in later chapters.

More Help

Previous Next
The Secret Garden(you do not need the spark notes for this book)

by KingSize4, May 02, 2013

This book is very easy to understand so you do not need the spark notes.

3 Comments

10 out of 44 people found this helpful

Review available here

by RandomlyAbstract, June 28, 2013

Hey! I just wrote a review for this novel because I really enjoyed reading it! You can find the review here:

http://www.shvoong.com/books/classic-literature/2379569-secret-garden/


Let me know what you think.

0 Comments

2 out of 4 people found this helpful

spark notes secret garden

by tryepic4, September 05, 2013

I love the secret garden!!!!!!!!!
I love sparknotes!!!!!!!!!!!!!

0 Comments

10 out of 11 people found this helpful

See all 4 readers' notes   →

Follow Us