The Gardener


Rudyard Kipling

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Themes and Colors
Propriety, Performance, and Secrecy Theme Icon
Christianity and Compassion Theme Icon
World War I Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Gardener, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Propriety, Performance, and Secrecy

“The Gardener” is a short story about a woman named Helen Turrell, who keeps the birth of her illegitimate child a secret and raises the boy, Michael, as though she is his aunt and he is the son of her dead brother, George. Helen leaves India when she becomes pregnant (under the pretense of going away to the South of France for her health) and brings the boy to England in order…

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Christianity and Compassion

While searching for Michael’s grave in a “merciless sea of black crosses” in the graveyard at Hagenzeele, Helen meets a man she assumes to be the gardener, tending to the war graves. The gardener, who represents Christ, offers to show Helen “where her son lies.” The fact that this man helps Helen in her moment of need, and that he immediately knows Michael is her son even though she has carefully introduced herself…

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World War I

The bulk of Kipling’s “The Gardener” follows Helen Turrell as she deals with the fallout of her son Michael’s death in the wake of World War I. A staunch patriot, Kipling wrote propaganda for the British government in support of World War I. He had a reputation as an enthusiastic supporter of British Imperialism, expressed strong political opposition to German expansion, and encouraged his own son, John, to sign up for the forces. However…

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