The Secret Garden

by

Frances Hodgson Burnett

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The Secret Garden: Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Dickon is struck by how beautiful Colin looks in the garden, and Mary and Colin speak in broad Yorkshire. They sit under the plum tree, and Colin watches Dickon and Mary work. They bring him things to look at, and Dickon pushes the wheelchair around. Dickon explains that they'll see the robin soon, when the eggs have hatched. They giggle and try to muffle the sound.
For the children, having to laugh quietly to maintain the secret only adds to the appeal of the secret garden. The fact that they're laughing speaks to how the garden is changing them and helping them become more normal and happy about life.
Themes
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
Later, Colin points out a very old tree. Mary notes that it looks dead, though it's covered with roses. Colin notices a broken branch, but Dickon turns his attention to the robin, who has something in his beak for his mate. Later, Mary tells Dickon privately that Magic sent the robin so they wouldn't have to talk about the tree that killed Mrs. Craven. Dickon tells Mary that according to Mother, Mrs. Craven's spirit is in the garden drawing the children to her.
Dickon's assessment of Mrs. Craven's spirit being in the garden reinforces that the garden is a space where the children are going to receive the kind of mothering they never had, just as they would if they were actual birds in a nest like the robin's.
Themes
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Colin, Mary, and Dickon watch the robin for a few minutes and then, Colin tells Mary to go ask one of the servants for tea. The servants oblige and the children enjoy their meal on a white cloth. As it begins to look like evening, Colin declares that he'll come back, see the summer, and grow in the garden along with the plants. Dickon remarks that soon, Colin will be digging and walking. Colin admits that there's nothing wrong with his legs; they're just weak. Dickon says that when Colin decides he's not afraid to stand, he'll stand.
What Dickon says about how Colin will start to walk again speaks to the power of positive thinking, as he suggests that fear is the only thing holding Colin back, and that once Colin can transition to thinking only good thoughts, everything will become easy. Colin's willingness to admit that there's nothing wrong with his legs shows that he can now evaluate his past behavior with clearer eyes; while he once indulged in the idea that he was terribly ill and forced everyone to feed him that narrative, Colin now recognizes that he’s capable of getting stronger.
Themes
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
Related Quotes
A while later, Colin points and anxiously asks who the man is. Dickon and Mary turn around and see Ben Weatherstaff glaring at them over the wall. He threatens to hit Mary, but Mary insists that the robin showed her into the garden. This offends Ben even more. Colin asks Dickon to wheel him over in front of Ben and the sight of Colin makes Ben's jaw drop. When Colin asks if Ben knows who he is, Ben incredulously says that he does: he's the "poor cripple." Colin and Mary both shout that Colin isn't crippled and explain that there's nothing wrong with Colin's back or legs. Learning that people think he has crooked legs makes Colin so angry that he calls Dickon to him and stands up. Mary whispers, "he can do it" over and over under her breath.
By channeling his anger into something productive—standing up for the first time—Colin shows that he's beginning to grasp the power of positive thinking. Mary's whispering helps channel that positive thinking, something that Colin will later insist is a spell. All of the rumors that Ben mentions shows that at least some of what ails Colin is the rumors, which make it so nobody else (aside from Mary and now Dickon) can act as a mirror and tell him he's fine.
Themes
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
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Colin and Dickon both say that Colin is just fine, which makes Ben Weatherstaff burst into tears. Colin says that he's Ben's master and commands Ben to come inside the secret garden so they can speak. Ben climbs down.
Ben's tears suggest that he actually cares for the children more than he's angry with them, which primes him to become a guardian for them.
Themes
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon