1- Provide information about the author’s biography.
2- Find the themes of the story. Provide examples by means of extracts.
3- Look up the notions of Theosophy and New Thought. In what ways do they relate to the book?
4- Describe the characters in the story.
5- Which symbols can you find in the novel? Explain their meanings according to your interpretation.
6- Mention characteristics of children’s literature in the story.
7- Analyse: setting, point of view, plot, protagonist, genre, major conflict, rising action, falling action, climax.
1- The Author’s Biography
Frances Hodgson Burnett was an English writer and playwright from the nineteenth century (1849 – 1924). Her most famous work is ‘The secret garden’. When Frances was sixteen, she started writing in order to help her family and her first stories were published when she was nineteen. After getting married, she moved to France, had two children and lived there for two years before returning to the United States, where she started to write novels. Even though she lived a lavish lifestyle, had a house in England and travelled there frequently, her oldest son, Lionel, died of tuberculosis. This event led to a relapse of the depression she struggled with for much of her life. She divorced Swan Burnett and remarried. However, her second marriage lasted just a year.
2- Themes of the novel:
Chapter 22, page 222.
"The great scientific discoveries I am going to make," he went on, "will be about Magic. Magic is a great thing and scarcely any one knows anything about it except a few people in old books—and Mary a little, because she was born in India where there are fakirs. I believe Dickon knows some Magic, but perhaps he doesn't know he knows it. He charms animals and people. I would never have let him come to see me if he had not been an animal charmer—which is a boy charmer, too, because a boy is an animal. I am sure there is Magic in everything, only we have not sense enough to get hold of it and make it do things for us—like electricity and horses and steam."
This sounded so imposing that Ben Weatherstaff became quite excited and really could not keep still. "Aye, aye, sir," he said and he began to stand up quite straight.
"When Mary found this garden it looked quite dead," the orator proceeded. "Then something began pushing things up out of the soil and making things out of nothing. One day things weren't there and another they were. I had never watched things before and it made me feel very curious. Scientific people are always curious and I am going to be scientific. I keep saying to myself, `What is it? What is it?' It's something. It can't be nothing! I don't know its name so I call it Magic. I have never seen the sun rise but Mary and Dickon have and from what they tell me I am sure that is Magic too. Something pushes it up and draws it. Sometimes since I've been in the garden I've looked up through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something were pushing and drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast. Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made out of Magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden—in all the places. The Magic in this garden has made me stand up and know I am going to live to be a man. I am going to make the scientific experiment of trying to get some and put it in myself and make it push and draw me and make me strong. I don't know how to do it but I think that if you keep thinking about it and calling it perhaps it will come. Perhaps that is the first baby way to get it. When I was going to try to stand that first time Mary kept saying to herself as fast as she could, `You can do it! You can do it!' and I did. I had to try myself at the same time, of course, but her Magic...