I have grown up reading Burnette’s The Secret Garden and it is one of my favorite pieces to revisit whenever I can. For the longest time, I had viewed Colin’s illness as one that allowed those around him to spoil him. That his father’s fear of him developing a hunched back like his own was what started the journey that disabled Colin. Colin having several illnesses throughout childhood had further led everyone to believe that there was something truly wrong with him. That he would not live to adulthood, which was something that caused him to act like a spoiled brat who got whatever he desired. It was their own fears, as well as Colins, that was the main cause of his disability. The adults around Colin treated him as if he would break, that if they went against him he would end up exhausting himself to the point where he would pass away. Because Colin was unable to have a normal childhood, he turned into himself and saw any sort of flaw as the next sign of his impending death.
Mary was a girl who saw past the adult’s fear and Colin’s tantrum to see that he was perfectly normal. That the cause of his illness was his own and that he was a boy who was as spoiled as she was when she was in India. When she realized that he was as normal as she was, she and her friend Dickon came up with the idea that the garden would heal Colin, making him stronger than he was because of his preserved disability. The innocence of a child was able to see that Colin’s disability was something that can be ‘fixed’ by going outside and experiencing things that he had been previously kept from. Colin had been confined to laying down in order to prevent the hunched back, he was prevented from anything stressful or exciting in order to prevent him from going into a fit. The one time he did go out he read about an illness and immediately caught that illness, which makes me believe that Colin might be one to believe that he could get any sort of illness that he reads about. A hypochondriac. “…One time they took him out where the roses is by the fountain. He’d been readin’ in a paper about people gettin’ somethin’ he called ‘rose cold’ an’ he began to sneeze an’ said he’d got it an’ then a new gardener as didn’t know th’ rules passed by an’ looked at him curious. He threw himself into a passion an’ he said he’d looked at him because he was going to be a hunchback. He cried himself into a fever an’ was ill all night,” (Burnett)
He is so afraid of dying or not being able to live he continuously works himself up and becomes ill. Mary is what brings life to him. She shows him that she was like him, always ill and angry with the world. Mary becomes a savior, finding ways to bring life to Colin, standing up against his anger, and teaching him life is worth living no matter what is wrong. She uses the garden to make herself stronger and in turn Colin. She takes a place where there was a loss of life and turns it into a haven for the two of them. She is what brings life back into the garden and in turn the entire manor. Showing them that fear of disability is not something to worry about, that life is worth living.
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