Isolated from Reality
Hidden away from everything and everyone, one can begin to know little more than the sense of neglect. This situation is seen throughout Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, which brings up the idea of being alone prevents the feelings of being rejected by those around us. Neglected from birth, Mary engages her surroundings in a defensive manner to prevent rejection, as is shown through the bungalow in India, the empty rooms in Misselthwaite Manor, and the Secret Garden.
There are various instances when Mary uses her surroundings to shield herself from the neglect that she has endured since birth. Secluded from the outside world, the bungalow in India is all that Mary has known of for the first nine years of her life. One morning, when Mary awakes and sees someone other than her Ayah, she immediately becomes defensive and states, “‘Why did you come?’ she said to the strange woman. ‘I will not let you stay. Send my Ayah to me.’” (2) This line demonstrates Mary’s self-assertion, and how she refuses to let anyone in emotionally. She is also very quick to question and demand the woman in a very forceful tone, almost as if she is proclaiming a form of dominance. Considering Mary has become accustomed to isolation, when someone attempts to over step those boundaries, Mary is quick to deflect them to prevent those feelings she has faced her whole life. Furthermore, when the epidemic breaks out, Mary refuses to be pushed to the side once again, so she uses the nursery as a sense of security to avert rejection. “During the confusion and bewilderment of the second day Mary hid herself in the nursery and was forgotten by everyone.” (5) When something goes wrong, Mary’s first instinct is to hide and isolate herself. Nobody wanted her nor thought of her; by hiding in the nursery, it is Mary’s way protecting herself from thus continuing.
When Mary arrives at Misselthwaite Manor, she is quick to discover how similar it is to her home back in India. Once again confined to a room, “At first each day which passed by for Mary Lennox was exactly like the others. Every morning she awoke in her tapestried room; every morning she ate her breakfast in the nursery which had nothing amusing in it.” (49) Although the Manor is very large, Mary is apprehensive to abandon her normality. Even though the nursery is described as “nothing amusing”, Mary still stays, as she is afraid to leave that sense of security, a place where she is in control. However, when Martha suggests Mary should go to the library, Mary decides to explore the Manor instead as “She did not care very much about the library itself, because she had read very few books; but to hear of it brought back to her mind the hundred rooms with closed doors”. (61) This quote displays how Mary has only known seclusion for the entirety of her life, therefore, Mary is quick to dismiss the idea of the library. The author mentions how the rooms have “closed doors” which alludes to the idea that Mary prefers to be somewhere in the Manor where no one can find her, in a sense closing herself off from everyone else inside the Manor. As Mary begins to venture out more and more each day across the Manor, she soon discovers a garden closed off from the world.
This newfound knowledge of the Secret Garden appeases Mary, as she pictures it as a place where she could be alone and no one would be able to find her. When she first learns about the hidden key to the garden, she begins to think about what she could do inside. “If she liked it she could go into it every day and shut the door behind her, and she could make up some play of her own, because nobody would ever know where she was, but would think the door was still locked and the key buried in the earth.” (76) Seeing as Mary has spent so much time alone throughout the duration of her life, she becomes very interested in the idea of having a place to call her own. After many years of neglect, the feeling of being alone has become so familiar to her. In Mary’s eyes the idea of seclusion means that there is no one to reject you. Subsequently, when Mary makes her way into the garden, she views it as “being shut out of the world in some fairy place.” (101) It is here that we see Mary’s love of secrecy, a garden that she could call her own. It is referenced as being “some fairy place”, somewhere magical, out of the ordinary, almost as if it does not exist and no one can find her. After spending most of her days in the garden, Mary begins to take ownership of it, however she begins to contradict herself by saying, “Nobody wants it, nobody cares for it, nobody ever goes in it. They’re letting it die, all shut in by itself.” (114) The garden in a way symbolizes Mary as she has also been neglected for 10 years, shut in her own world. As soon as she feels that someone is going to take the garden away from her, she becomes defensive and thinks that if enough people find out about the garden, it will not be hers anymore.
Throughout the novel, Mary uses her surroundings to protect herself from being rejected. This defensive personality begins early on in the bungalow in India, where she has been sequestered from the outside world. Thus following her to the Manor, she becomes more and more intrigued to find places with closed doors where no one would think to look. This leads her to the Secret Garden, a place shut out from the rest of the world, hidden away from everything and everyone.
Burnett, Frances Hodgson, “The Secret Garden.” Ed. Robin Lawrie. Great Britain: Puffin Classics, 2015.
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Hidden away from everything and everyone, one can begin to know little more than the sense of neglect. This situation is seen throughout Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, which […]