The Secret Garden

by

Frances Hodgson Burnett

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The Secret Garden: Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Dickon looks around and then starts to walk around the garden. He eventually says that he never thought he'd see this place and reminds Mary that they need to speak quietly so nobody will hear them. Dickon remarks that this will be the safest nesting place very soon, and Mary asks if the roses are dead. He steps to a tree hung with roses and points to a shoot that's brown instead of gray. She and Dickon go from tree to tree, discovering which roses are alive and cutting away dead material. Dickon shows Mary how to use the gardening tools and is overjoyed when he sees that Mary already cleared weeds away from some of the bulbs. He compliments her work and Mary points out that she's getting stronger as she digs.
By referring to nesting, Dickon begins to shift the garden from symbolizing Mary and Mary's development as a whole to symbolizing a large, safe, nest of sorts. In this way, the novel situates the secret garden as the safe place where Mary and Dickon can develop their friendship, come to respect and revere nature, and move towards adulthood. When Dickon compliments Mary's weeding, it implies that she already has an innate sense of how to care for a garden—something she demonstrated with her pretend gardens in India.
Themes
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
Dickon says that this garden is the best thing for Mary and notes that the smell of the earth is the most wonderful smell—he spends days on the moor, just sniffing like a rabbit, and never catches cold. A few minutes later, Mary asks Dickon if he'll return and help her with the garden. Dickon is thrilled and promises to come every day. He looks around again and remarks that it looks like someone has been in the garden recently to prune, though he and Mary can't figure out how they got in.
The someone who pruned the roses is presumably Ben Weatherstaff, which shows the reader that though the children don't yet realize it, there are a number of people that are helping them to grow and develop from the sidelines. This reminds the reader that parents aren't the only ones capable of guiding children to adulthood.
Themes
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Mary remembers the rhyme that Basil sang at her to tease her. She asks Dickon about flowers that look like bells and recites "Mistress Mary" to him. Frowning, she says that Basil and his siblings were more “contrary” than she was. Dickon laughs and says there's no need to be “contrary” when one is in a garden, and Mary tells Dickon that he's the fifth person she likes. She asks Dickon if he likes her, attempting a Yorkshire accent. He says that both he and the robin do. A while later, the clock strikes for dinner. Dickon pulls out bread and bacon, and Mary feels nervous that he'll be gone when she returns. She asks him if he promises not to tell anyone about the secret garden, and he assures her that he'll guard her secret like he guards missel thrush nests.
Again, by placing Basil and his siblings opposite the garden, the novel suggests that Mary has more good things to learn from nature than she does from other people. This is changing, however, through her relationship with Dickon and her invitation for him to help her restore the garden to its former glory. When she attempts broad Yorkshire—out of admiration, not ridicule—it shows that she now understands that other people are worthy of respect and of things that make them happy, such as hearing their own language spoken to them.
Themes
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
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