The Secret Garden | Study Guide

Frances Hodgson Burnett

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The Secret Garden | Chapter 3 : Across the Moor | Summary



Mary and Mrs. Medlock arrive at Thwaite Station, where a carriage is waiting to take them to Misselthwaite Manor. Curious, Mary stares out the window and views the tiny village and long stretches of the high road without saying a word. After a long time, they reach the moor. Mary thinks it is like the sea because it is dark, spreads out in all directions, and she can hear the wind rush across it. She decides she does not like it.

They finally see a light in the manor lodge's window, pass through the park gates, and travel "two miles of avenue" to the manor's door. Mary enters her new home and is overwhelmed with its "enormous hall" and "figures in the suits of armor." Mr. Pitcher, Mr. Craven's personal servant, greets them and tells Mrs. Medlock to take Mary to her room because Craven "doesn't want to see her." He instructs Mrs. Medlock to "make sure [Craven's] not disturbed and that he doesn't see what he doesn't want to see." She and Mary walk up two flights of stairs and down several corridors until they arrive at the two rooms "where [she'll] live." Mrs. Medlock reminds her of the house rule that she "must keep" to her rooms.


Mary is starting to engage more with Mrs. Medlock, but only a little—enough to satisfy her curiosity. She briefly talks with her about the moor; Burnett gives special attention to describing this landscape and Mary's response to it, because it will be very important to Mary's development. However, Mary does not confide her response to Mrs. Medlock, because Mary is not accustomed to sharing her feelings, and Mrs. Medlock is not the type of adult to encourage a young child to do so. Although Mrs. Medlock gives Mary information about her new home, she does not ask if she has any questions nor does she attempt to find out what Mary is thinking or feeling. This is far different from contemporary approaches to child raising, which are child-centered and focus on preparing children for changes in their lives and addressing their fears and concerns. Instead, it reflects the upper-class child-rearing customs of the times and the belief that servants should limit their interactions with their charges to their professional duties.

Mrs. Medlock and Mary have a unique servant-master relationship. Mary does not offer to help Mrs. Medlock gather their packages before they depart the train because she is accustomed to servants in India picking up and carrying things. Therefore, she expects Mrs. Medlock to wait on her. Mrs. Medlock, in turn, does not consider Mary her master, but neither is she a person of equal stature. She is a duty, an obligation that Mrs. Medlock is required to take on because of her responsibilities to her master, Mr. Craven. Meeting that obligation is the extent of her willingness to engage with the child.

Once they arrive at the house, which is vast and gloomy, Mr. Pitcher's reminder that it is Mrs. Medlock's responsibility to ensure Craven is not disturbed is eerily similar to what Mary's mother expected of the servants in India—to keep Mary out of sight and hearing of the adults. Despite the lack of interest in her exhibited by adults, Mary has two things going for her. She is not a timid child, and she has a genuine sense of curiosity. She hears and sees what's going on around her. Both traits will eventually help offset her aloofness from others and lessen her general disagreeableness.

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