The Secret Garden | Study Guide

Frances Hodgson Burnett

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The Secret Garden | Chapter 20 : "I Shall Live Forever—And Ever—And Ever!" | Summary



The next week is windy and Colin has a cold, so he cannot go outside. Dickon visits almost every day and tells Colin about all of the animals and the "whole busy underworld" of the moor. They make elaborate preparations for when Colin will go outside and plan how they will keep his going to the garden a secret. One day, Colin orders Mr. Roach, the head gardener, to his rooms. Colin informs Roach he is going outside that afternoon, and Roach is to keep all the gardeners away from the long walk by the garden walls. He then dismisses Roach by saying, "You have my permission to go," which amuses both Roach and Mrs. Medlock.

Mary and Colin talk about the garden and Colin's expectations. Then the nurse comes in to prepare Colin to go outside. Rather than "lying like a log," Colin helps her get him dressed. Dr. Craven arrives to inspect Colin. He consents to his going outdoors but confides to the nurse that he wishes she was accompanying him. The nurse says she would rather quit than suggest such a thing. The footman carries Colin down the stairs and places him in his wheeled carriage. Dickon pushes it toward the garden while Mary describes significant events along the route, such as where the robin showed her the location of the key and where the ivy blew back from the wall and revealed the garden's door. As Dickon pushes him through the door to the garden, Colin covers his eyes. Once inside, he looks around, his face suffused with a "pink glow of color." He cries out, "I shall get well!" three times before announcing his plan to live forever.


The narrator describes Dickon as having "a sort of Magic," and he works this magic on Colin, building up his anticipation—and will to live—by telling him about the moor and its inhabitants. The moor is coming to life with much underground activity, just as Colin is coming to life with similar unseen mental activity in his subconscious.

Despite being an invalid, Colin is no slouch in pursuing what he wants. As a member of the aristocracy, he freely demands what he wants from the servants and Dr. Craven. At the same time, however, he is becoming more independent as demonstrated by his efforts to help the nurse dress him.

Mary takes Colin on the same journey of discovery she experienced and tells him about each event and place because she wants him to experience the same things she did when she found the garden. She wants the garden to be the same kind of place for him as it has been for her—a place of her own, a secret from adults, and a place of healing and growth. The pink glow that transforms Colin's physical appearance signifies that his process of rejuvenation has begun.

Images flood Colin's senses as he enters the garden and takes his hands from his eyes to look at it for the first time. Sight, hearing, smell, and touch are all engaged. In addition to the colors of the grass and flowers, he hears "the fluttering of wings and faint sweet pipes" of birds. He smells "scents and scents," and feels the sun upon him "like a hand with a lovely touch." It is a profound moment of connection with the natural world and with himself, as he determines to get well and embrace life.

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