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I grew up on The Secret Garden and love the story to this day. When I was really little my grandparents had the Hallmark version, later on the Warner Brother's version became popular,and then in my late teens I was introduced to the play. I realize there's a book all of these are based off of, but I have a tight reading schedule, so for now it sits on my self.
The story is about a little girl named Mary Lennox who lived a privileged life, but was largely ignored by her parents. When her parents die in a cholera epidemic that hits India (or in the Warner Brother's version an earthquake, but really it was a cholera epidemic) Mary is shipped off to live with her reclusive uncle Archibald in England.
Once at the manor, Mary hardly sees her uncle. When she does meet him, he is pained by how much she looks like his dead wife (the twin sister of Mary's mother).
Most of Mary's time is spent being ushered outside by order of Mrs. Medlock, who's basically Archibald's chief of staff and a real bitty. Used to getting her by throwing tantrums, Mary is now surrounded by people who don't care. Her antics get her punishment and indifference.
In all of this she does manage to make some friends though, a maid named Martha who's been assigned to her and Martha's brother Dickon who wanders the grounds. The two treat her differently than she's ever been treated and she's able to open up and let them in.
The real transformation comes in Mary after she finds a secret garden. She discovers the garden was locked up and left for the wild to reclaim after her aunt died there. After obtaining permission from her uncle to have a bit of earth to tend to (not letting on that she means the secret garden) she sets about learning to care for something other than herself with the help of Dickon.
To further help Mary on her path of transformation, one night while investigating the strange noises in the manner, she meets her cousin Colin. Bed ridden and locked away from the world, Collin tells Mary of how his mother died when he was born. He came early and was a sickly baby. Terrified of growing close to Collin only to lose him as well, Archibald left the boy to Mrs. Medlock's care. To preserve his health, Collin was stashed away with no visitors allowed and the windows boarded up. He knows nothing of the outside world or love, but he does know that technically he's the lord of the manor when his father is away. He uses his position to order Mary about, and his tantrums are beyond even those Mary is capable of throwing. Immune to his baby fits, but still drawn to have compassion for his situation, Mary forms a friendship with Colin.
|Dickon (with the animal on his shoulder), Colin and Mary|
in the back. From the 1993 Warner Brother's film.
One night, Mary tells Colin of the garden. Sick of being left behind every time goes outside,and curious to see the garden, Colin manipulates his way into going outdoors. Mary and Dickon help Colin to achieve some normalcy. Through this friendship, both Colin and Mary change, each opening up to the idea of being loved and caring for others.
In the end, they are completely different people. The power of their change is so deep that it extends to Archibald, who, seeing that Colin is no longer the weakling all the years of pampering and over protection caused him to be, opens his heart and allows himself to be close to his son. Knowing that Mary is the reason for Colin's transformation, he approaches her with gratitude and finally allows her in.
This story is such a great example of how to handle character transformation. Both Mary and Colin are such unpleasant pests at their introductions, and Archibald is so broken he doesn't even know what to do with himself. Bringing the characters all together allowed for a domino effect to drastically change all of them.
Mary is the one who undergoes the most significant changes due to outside forces beyond her control. The death of her parents, the sudden move, the garden being her only place of solitude. From there, her changes seep into Colin.
Had she been the same girl who came to the manor the night she met Colin, she may have left him there to order the walls around. But a change in her character had already taken roots and given her the power to affect change in him. Their collective change reaches to Archibald, and the characters are allowed a happy ending. (For those of you familiar with the Hallmark version, we're going to just ignore the part where it blows what happens in their future and makes the ending really just bittersweet).
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