The Secret Garden opens by introducing us to Mary Lennox, a sickly, foul-tempered, unsightly little girl who loves no one but herself and whom no one loves including her parents. At the outset of the story, she is living in India with her parents, a dashing army captain and his frivolous, beautiful wife. But, Mary is rarely permitted to see them. They have placed her under the constant care of a number of native servants ( her ayah ) , as they find her too hideous and tiresome to look after. Mary's circumstances are cast into complete upheaval when an outbreak of cholera devastates the Lennox household, leaving no one alive but herself.
She is later found by a group of soldiers and, after briefly living with an English clergyman and his family, Mary is sent to live in Yorkshire with her maternal uncle, Archibald Craven at Misselthwaite Manor. Misselthwaite Manor is a sprawling old estate with over one hundred rooms, all of which have been shut up by Archibald Craven. A man whom everyone describes as "a miserable hunchback," Master Craven has been in a state of inconsolable grief ever since the death of his wife Lilias Craven ten years before the novel begins. Shortly after arriving at Misselthwaite, Mary hears about a secret garden from Martha Sowerby, who is her good-natured Yorkshire maidservant. This garden belonged to the late Mistress Craven also known as Lilias Craven ; after her death, Archibald locked the garden door and buried the key beneath the earth where he taught that no one could ever find it.
Mary becomes intensely curious about the secret garden, and is determined
to find it. This curiosity, along with the vigorous exercise she takes
on the moor, begins to have an extremely positive effect upon Mary. She
almost immediately becomes less sickly, more engaged with the world, and
less foul-tempered. This change is aided by Ben Weatherstaff, a brusque
but kindly old gardener, and a robin redbreast who lives in the secret
garden. She begins to count these two "people," along with Martha,
Dickon Sowerby, and Susan Sowerby, as the friends she has had in her
life. Her curiosity is whetted when she hears strange, far-off cries
coming from one of the manor's distant rooms.
However, Mrs. Medlock, the head of the servants at Misselthwaite,
absolutely forbids her to seek out the source of the cries. She is
distracted from this mystery when she discovers, with the robin's help,
the key to the secret garden. She immediately sets about working there,
so that the neglected plants might thrive. Dickon, who brings her a set
of gardening tools and promises to help her bring the secret garden back
to life, vastly aids her in her endeavor. Dickon is a boy who can charm
the animals of the moor "the way snake charmers charm snakes in India."
He is only a common moor boy, but he is filled with so much uncanny
wisdom that Mary comes to refer to him as "the Yorkshire angel.
One night, Mary hears the distant cries and, flagrantly disobeying Mrs.
Medlock's prohibition, goes off in search of their source. She finds
Colin Craven, Master Craven's invalid son, shut up in an opulent
bedchamber. Colin was born shortly before his mother's death, and his
father cannot bear to look at him because the boy painfully reminds him
of his late wife. Colin has been bedridden since his birth, and it is
believed that he will become a hunchback and die an early death. His
servants have been commanded to obey his every whim, and Colin has
become fantastically spoiled and imperious as a result. Colin and Mary
strike up a friendship, but Colin becomes furious when she fails to
visit him because she prefers to garden with Dickon. That night, Colin
throws one of the infamous tantrums. Mary rushes to his room in a fury
and commands him to stop crying. He tells her that his back is beginning
to show a hunch; when Mary examines him, she finds nothing whatever the
matter with him. Henceforth, she will maintain that Colin's illness is
only in his mind: he will be well if only he makes up his mind to be.
Dickon and Mary secretly begin bringing Colin out into the secret
garden. On the first of these outings, the children are discovered by
Ben Weatherstaff, who has been covertly tending the secret garden once a
year for ten years. Ben has done so out of love and loyalty for the
late Mistress Craven: he was a favorite of hers. Weatherstaff refers to
Colin as "the poor cripple," and asks if he has crooked legs and a
crooked back. Colin, made furious by this question, forces himself to
stand up on his own feet for the first time in his life. After this
feat, Colin's health improves miraculously: the secret garden, the
springtime, and Dickon's company have the same rejuvenating effect upon
him that they did upon Mary. The children determine to keep Colin's
improvement a secret, however, so that he can surprise his father with
his recovery when Master Craven returns from his trip abroad.
The three children, along with Ben Weatherstaff, spend every day of the
summer in the secret garden. Only one other person is admitted into the
secret: Susan Sowerby, Dickon's saintly mother. Susan sends a letter to
Master Craven, telling him to hurry home so that he might see his son;
she does not, however, specify why, in deference to Colin's secret.
Master Craven complies, and returns immediately to Misselthwaite. His
first act is to go into the secret garden; he does so at the behest of a
dream in which the voice of his late wife told him that he might find
her there. Just as he lays his hand to the doorknob, Colin comes rushing
out and falls into his arms. Father and son are reconciled, and the
miracle of Colin's recovery becomes known to all.
LITERATURE (21) poem (13) FORM 5 (10) NOVEL (9) STEP BY WICKED STEP (7) FORM 1 (4) FORM 2 (4) FORM 3 (4) sample text for oral test (4) FORM 4 (3) Robert Frost (3) WORD OF THE DAY (3) william shakespear (3) short stories (2) summary (2) ATTENTION VIEWERS (1) SAMPLE QUESTION AND ANSWER (1) charles dickens (1) dialogue (1) frances hodgson burnett (1) oliver twist (1) sample essays (1) the secret garden (1)
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