The Secret Garden | Study Guide

Frances Hodgson Burnett

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The Secret Garden | Chapter 5 : The Cry in the Corridor | Summary



Mary develops a routine. She wakes, watches Martha make her fire, eats breakfast, and goes outside. At first she dislikes being outdoors, and she especially dislikes the wind. She walks fast to warm herself up and soon develops some color in her cheeks and an appetite. One day, she sees Ben Weatherstaff's tame robin, which chirps and twitters as if he were talking to Mary. Mary talks back to him, telling him "I like you! I like you!" The robin takes flight and then perches on a tree within a walled garden.

Mary realizes this is the locked garden Martha told her about. She looks for the garden's door without success. As Mary thinks about the hidden garden, she discovers she is happy she came to Misselthwaite Manor. She no longer feels "hot and too languid to care much about anything," as she did in India. Even if she is not aware of why, the fresh wind has "begun to blow the cobwebs out of her young brain" and "waken her up a little."

That night after supper, Mary asks Martha why Mr. Craven hates the garden. Despite Craven's order that "there's lots o' things in this place that's not to be talked over," Martha confides in Mary. The garden was his wife's, she had loved it, and both of them spent a lot of time in it. Mrs. Craven made a seat of an old tree branch, and one day the branch broke when she was sitting on it. She died the next day. A heartbroken Mr. Craven never went in the garden again, and he forbids anyone to speak of it. Mary reflects on this story and feels sorry for her uncle because of it. Then she hears a curious sound, like a child crying. Martha tells her it's the wind. Suddenly a huge gust blows open the door of their room and blows out the light. The crying sound becomes clearer, and Mary insists it is a child crying. Martha denies it and claims it is either the wind or Betty Butterworth, a scullery maid with a toothache, who is crying, but Mary does not believe her.


Mary's healing is progressing. Her appetite is increasing and her cheeks have color. She is thinking about a tame robin and a hidden garden. She engages in conversation with Martha and feels empathy when she hears the sad tale about Mrs. Craven's death. She discovers she likes someone, the robin. These changes have all been wrought by a combination of fresh air, physical activity, exposure to nature, and focusing on things outside of herself. Burnett explicitly contrasts the tropical climate of India with the cool, windy climate of England, setting up the former as negative and unhealthy and the latter as healthy and positive.

The wind is a recurrent presence throughout the novel. Mary first heard it making a low sound over the moors when she arrived at Misselthwaite Manor. Now it serves as an agent in Mary's healing by forcing her to walk more briskly, and as a messenger, occurring at the same time as the sound of a child crying in the house. While Mary is yet unaware of what is later described as "Magic," the wind acts in a magical way to inform Mary about a hidden person in the huge manor house. In this way, it is similar to the robin, who appears to lead Mary to the secret garden.

As was typical of the relationship between servants and the aristocracy during the Victorian and Edwardian ages, Martha is somewhat deferential toward Mary. She stays past her usual time after her duties are finished because Mary wants her to and because she dislikes being with the others in the great servants' hall. Martha does not simply go along with Mary, however. She comes from a household of 12 children, and she lacks the formality of many trained domestic servants—a servant of her low social status would normally never interact with the family she serves, but Mrs. Medlock and Martha's mother are close friends. Martha is used to taking care of her younger brothers and sisters and feels more comfortable around another young person than with the other servants, who make fun of her Yorkshire dialect. She likes to talk, and she finds Mary interesting, so she breaks out of the customary formality and talks openly with Mary about things most servants would not tell their charges. At the same time, she knows not to breach the manor's secret and reveal to Mary the real source of the crying.

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