CSLJ Book Club Discussion of The Secret Garden – Day 2

CSLJ Book Club Discussion of The Secret Garden – Day 2

Welcome back! I am so glad you joined us for Day 2 of our book club discussion of The Secret Garden!

Today’s discussion questions are:

  • The Secret Garden isn’t the only thing in the novel that is hidden away and waiting to come alive again.  Do you see any parallels between the garden and Mary, Colin, or Mr. Craven?
  • What it is about the garden that causes such a dramatic change in Mary and Colin?
  • While Mary is transformed by her time in the garden from a sickly, unattractive, and downright unpleasant child into a happy and health heroine but do you think the story would have worked out as well if she had been a polite, well-behaved little girl? In what ways are her faults really strengths and do you think she retains those strengths at the end of the book?

To join in the conversation, leave a comment here or on Facebook with your thoughts and opinions.
You can also see and weigh in on our earlier discussion questions here.

Share this on:Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on Tumblr

6 Responses to CSLJ Book Club Discussion of The Secret Garden – Day 2

  1. Mary and Colin are similar in that Mary’s mom paid no attention to her and only supplied the means to live such as food, water, clothes, etc. Colin’s father provided the same thing but neither parent supplied love and affection. Mary and Colin were kept out of sight and without the love and affection of a parent were unable to thrive. Mr. Craven was so caught up in his web of grief that he was also unable to thrive. He traveled the world and was exposed to wondrous beauty but was unable to see it.
    Mary was intrigued with the thought of a secret garden. Being used to having her own way and doing what she wanted, she adjusted to the way the house was run. It was similar to the way she had grown up in already, in the sense that there was minimal structure and supervision. As she helps the garden to come alive it turns her focus from inward to outward. With her focus on the garden and her mind not entirely focused on her own miseries, she comes alive.
    Colin is changed because Mary comes along and being a selfish and spoiled child like him, she is not afraid to meet him head on and stand up to him in a way that no one ever had. She helped him to take the focus off his “ailments” and by telling him stories of the garden she gave him hope. The garden was a safe place for him to begin to thrive among people he felt safe with and not be afraid of being stared at.

  2. Like the garden, Mary, Collin, and Mr. Craven have all been locked out of sight and exist in a sort of in-between state between alive and not alive until something comes to bring them back to life again. And in all three cases, it took something out of civilized, polite society to do that.

    With Mary, it was the garden – but also it also the Robin, Dickon, and Ben to help. All three are a little wild and go where they will without taking too much notice of rules or structure or being deferential. From the Robin being able to go over the wall at will and Dickon wandering the moor and learning all the secrets of the wild things, to Ben being as plainspoken and cantankerous and climbing over the wall to tend the garden even after it was locked up, there is something very free about these characters. Even Martha is a little bit more natural and free than she would be expected to be as a maid in a big house if Misselthwaite was as it should be. She spoke with too natural an accent and was too free in her manner.

    For Colin, it was a half-tamed (if that much) Mary that shook him out of his slump when the house full of adults, nurses, doctors, etc. couldn’t (or wouldn’t) dare do it.

    I think the author is trying to say that it is possible to get too civilized and lose hold of the strength and the magic that is inside yourself.

    I think this is why, even after Mary is transformed by the garden, that she never gets rid of her temper. It doesn’t come out as often and is put to much better use by standing up to Colin when he is being unreasonable than just throwing temper tantrums but she never gets fully tamed and I think the character is better for it.

  3. One of my favorite quotes from the book is “Where you tend a rose my lad, a thistle cannot grow” and I think that is a very big part of the Magic that changes Mary and Colin. By focusing on something positive and outside of themselves they didn’t leave room for all the nasty tempers and morbid obsessions that took up the room in their heads before.

    Also, while there are many positive things they could have focused on, I think the act of nurturing a living thing like a garden was about the best thing that could have happened to spoiled children like Mary and Colin. It gave them physical health, a challenge to overcome and feel good about, and a sense of empathy – all of which could only help make them better people.

  4. The major reason I believe that Mary holds on to her strength even after she starts to change is because she is able to go toe to toe with Colin at his worse. Too often we see little girls (if not full grown women) portrayed as having to get along and defer to other people or we consider them “bitchy.” Originally, Mary took her strength way too far and was mean and unsympathetic and totally unlivable with but I am happy that Burnett doesn’t completely take that away from her once she starts on her path to redemption. Girls should feel free to fight when they feel the need for it without always having to worry about being well mannered and likeable.

  5. I love Mary meeting Ben for the first time – finally, someone else who is a big feral, yet functional! She’ll be a much more functional, and useful person than her mother was – I don’t see her handing off children to be raised by servants! For her, children will be yet another garden to discover and grow.

Leave a reply