The Secret Garden | Study Guide

Frances Hodgson Burnett

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The Secret Garden | Chapter 14 : A Young Rajah | Summary



The next day, Mary tells Martha she has found Colin. Martha is instantly alarmed and fears she will lose her position. Mary tells her she won't because Colin was glad Mary came, asked her to stay, and even showed her the portrait of his mother. Mary tells Martha that Colin wants her to visit him every day and Martha is to let Mary know when he wants her. Martha grows more fearful of losing her position, but Mary reassures her by telling her she must do whatever Colin orders, but it is to be kept a secret. Mary admits she thinks Colin "almost liked me." Martha thinks Mary must have bewitched Colin as he is ill tempered and never wants anyone to see him.

Martha explains Colin's medical history and relationship with his father, Mr. Craven. When Mrs. Craven died shortly after Colin was born, his father "went off his head," and a doctor considered putting Mr. Craven in an asylum. Mr. Craven "would not set eyes on th' baby" and said Colin would be a hunchback and it would be better if he died. Colin has a weak back, has had to be kept lying down, and for a while wore a brace. A London doctor ordered the brace removed and said Colin had too much medicine and was spoiled. He is frequently sick and has had colds, rheumatic fever, and even typhoid. Martha shares what her mother, Mrs. Sowerby, thinks: there no reason a child should live who doesn't get any fresh air and lies around all day. Mary suggests it would do Colin good to go outside and watch things grow in a garden, as it has been for her.

Colin sends for Mary. When she arrives, she tells him of Martha's fear. Colin orders Martha to come to his room. He tells her she must do what he pleases and reassures her she will not come to harm for obeying his orders. After Martha leaves, Mary tells Colin that the way he spoke to Martha reminded her of how a boy who was a rajah, a prince in India, spoke to his people. Then she tells Colin how different he is from Dickon. Colin points to a picture in a book of a snake charmer and asks if Dickon can charm snakes. Mary explains that he plays music for animals and they listen, but it's not magic. Instead he knows the animals' ways.

Mary describes the allure of the moor, and Colin complains how he never sees anything because he is ill. Mary suggests he could go on the moor someday. He says he can't because he is going to die. Disliking his talk of death, as if he is boasting about it, Mary tells him that if people wished she would die, she would determine not to. She asks Colin who wishes him dead. He tells her the servants and his father would, and so would Dr. Craven because he would then inherit Misselthwaite Manor. Colin says his London doctor said, "The lad might live if he would make up his mind to it. Put him in the humor." Mary decides Dickon would put Colin in the humor because he is "always talking about live things. He never talks about dead things or things that are ill."

Mary says, "Don't let us talk about dying; I don't like it. Let us talk about living." They talk about the moor, Dickon, Mrs. Sowerby, and other pleasant things. Dr. Craven and Mrs. Medlock walk into the room to the sounds of the children's laughter. Dr. Craven demands to know why Mary is there, and Colin explains that she heard someone crying and found him. Colin says Mary "must come and talk to me whenever I send for her," but Dr. Craven says there has been too much excitement and it is not good for Colin. Colin disagrees, claiming that Mary makes him feel better, and he would be upset "if she kept away." The doctor finally gives his consent along with several warnings—to avoid talking too much, to not forget he is ill or that he tires easily. Colin tells the doctor he wants to forget those things. Mary makes him forget them, which "is why I want her."


Mary is unhappy with some of what she learns about Colin. She appreciates his imperialistic ways because ordering the servants about means Martha cannot get in trouble for helping to arrange their visits. But Mary has no sympathy for Colin's attitude about his illness. She wants him to have more positive thoughts. She encourages positive thinking by questioning his belief that he is going to die and engaging him in conversation about pleasant topics, such as the moor and Dickon. Colin readily catches on, and when Dr. Craven warns him not to forget his illness, Colin says he wants to forget it. Already he has made a personal commitment to be more positive. Mary and Colin are now both undergoing a radical transformation. Dr. Craven is shocked to find Mary and Colin laughing—two children "happy together ... instead of a hard, little, unloving girl and a sickly boy who believed that he was going to die."

Dr. Craven represents the opposite of positive thinking. He dwells on the negative and wants to keep it in the forefront. This reflects Burnett's belief that preoccupation with gloomy things can harm a person. Instead, people need to develop interests in something other than themselves and concentrate on the positive. Mary has several such interests—the garden, the outdoors, skipping rope, and Dickon, all of which inspire her positivity, while Colin has limited interests, such as reading, and spends much of his time dwelling on negative things, such as illness and death.

Mary's empathy is now in full force. No longer a child who thinks only of herself, she is concerned about Martha and whether she will lose her job for helping her. She also is concerned about Colin and wants him to engage in more life-affirming activities. Her contrariness, which used to be a negative aspect of her character, has been turned to a good cause. When she makes objections now, it is because she wants to help her cousin. She approves of the London doctor, who took a stand that differed from Dr. Craven's, and she urges Colin to do something different than what others expect of him.

Colin's aristocratic status gives him authority over both the servants and his physician, reflecting the social customs of the times. Unlike contemporary times, when physicians give instructions and advice based on a patient's medical needs, Dr. Craven caves in to Colin's demand because "he dare not oppose his patient," and he simply does not know how to treat Colin's largely psychosomatic ailments.

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