Need a children’s book to relax your mind? Well, The Secret Garden is a good choice to add to your reading list. Written in 1911, it was one of the three incredible works by Frances Eliza Hodgson Burnett. Her three best children’s books are Little Lord Fauntleroy, A Little Princess, and The Secret Garden.
Burnett was born on November 24, 1849, in Manchester, England. People who have read her life journey will most likely picture her as a tough woman. This is shown by how she earned money from her own works, dealt with her marriage problems and financial situation, and faced another hard situation when her elder son was dying of tuberculosis. Therefore, I’m really interested in reviewing The Secret Garden. Also, I will tell you what messages I found in this book.
The main character in this novel is Mary, a British girl born in India. Because of her ugly face and skinny body, her mother does not take good care of her and instead hands her to her servants (Burnett Frances, The Secret Garden, page 4, Magic Wagon). After her mother’s death, she moves to her uncle’s house. There, she learns a lot of new things. From how to dress up, how to socialize with other people, and gardening. She meets a lot of new friends there: Dickon, Colin, and animals too. Her curiosity, personality, and the way she carries positivity into her life land her a key to open The Secret Garden.
Mary used to be a girl who could not socialize easily with new people. Back then, her mother did not allow her to come out and play, so she spent most of her life with the servants. But after being freed from her mother’s influence, she transforms into an independent girl, talks with older people, and learns to manage her life. We can see her change from the way she cheers Colin up when he is ill.
Dickon, on the other hand, is Mary’s first friend; a boy who carries himself as a gentleman. From the first time Mary hears about Dickon, she always hopes that they can meet soon. When they finally meet, Mary is thrilled. With Dickon, she learns more about nature, gardening, and having a pet. Then she meets Colin, a boy who never socializes and comes out of his bedroom. Colin’s doctor does not allow him to go out, because his back is in pain that makes him unable to stand up like normal people. Colin gets angry easily with everyone and the way he orders his servants around shows us that he is a spoiled prince.
One thing that I enjoy from this book is the use of one uncommon word that sparks my curiosity. That word is Ayah. Ayah means a maid or a nursemaid in Indian. After Mary moves to her uncle’s house, she does not use Ayah anymore because the people around her are not from India. It puts an emphasis on Mary’s identity as an Indian-born. Also, I figured out why Burnett used Dickon to name one of the characters. In the book, Dickon is described as a gentleman. The name Dickon is a masculine name in itself, so the name really embodies his characteristic.
The Secret Garden has a lot of messages for the readers. The first one is about mindset. Colin has an issue with his back—he and the people around him do not believe that he could stand like normal people. However, after meeting Mary, his mindset starts to change. Mary always says that playing in the garden makes her healthier. When Colin starts to play in the secret garden as well, he feels that the garden has magic that makes him happier and stronger. He is able to stand like normal people without any medication. For me, it is not the garden that has the magic, but Colin’s changed mindset: he starts to believe that playing outside can make him healthier—which it does—and socializing with other people is fun. The shift in his mindset changes his life for the better.
The next message is the importance of socializing. Since Colin never meets anyone in his life, he never knows about the world. He does not know how powerful it is to meet people and share a lot of new things with them. Colin’s first friends are Mary and Dickon, and socializing with them makes him happier than ever before. We do learn a lot from socializing.
This novel is a children’s book, but the educational aspects inside it are profound. It teaches us to transform the bad things in our life into great ones. Sometimes, we do not want to read a children’s book because what we imagine inside is just an imagination, but The Secret Garden shows us more than that. Through the ups and downs of the characters, Barnett retold the death of her son and turned it into a great, magnificent story. I really recommend it not only for children but also for people of all ages.
- Burnett’s Biography
- Ayah’s meaning
- Dickon’s meaning