Slow-Read Sunday: The Secret Garden (to Ch. XIV)

If you missed our discussion of the first part of The Secret Garden you can always catch up.

Today I’ll ask some questions about the second part, to Chapter XIV.

1. How does Mary think of herself?

It’s a hard question to answer for an adolescent. At what age do we begin to develop our self-image? Mary starts to ask that question about herself on p. 62. We see some of the keener psychological moments in the book when we see Mary start to look at things in new ways. Before she can understand what it means to help someone else she has to come to understand who she is. Mary is going through that process. Try to gauge whether Mary’s opinion of herself changes throughout the book.

2. Symbolism and gardens.

Are our lives like gardens? Are our relationships like gardens? Is the way we should treat ourselves the same as the way we should treat a garden?

3. Gradual progress and improvement.

Mary takes on skipping rope on p. 72. In the beginning she’s poor, but with practice she’ll improve if she practices everyday. The idea of steady gradual improvement is particularly hard to teach young people (all people?). Do you think Burnett is trying to convey this idea to her younger readers?

Or, do you think Burnett is more worried about emotional health and the idea that if we take things one day at a time we can avoid overwhelm?

4. Gardening as empathy.

Mary comes to gardening with very little understanding of the concept of how to garden, but she figures it out quickly using her intuition. Do you think we’re born with the knowledge of how to care for other living things? If not, where do we learn this? Where did Mary learn empathy for her garden?

5. Mary is excited to have a place of her own.

Mary’s excitement about the garden is partially because it’s her own place. As Colin enters the novel try to recognize whether that changes and when it changes. Would Mary behave differently toward Colin had she met him before she had the garden?

For next time let’s read to Chapter XVII, “A Tantrum.”

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