The Secret Garden

by

Frances Hodgson Burnett

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The Secret Garden: Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
One morning, Mary wakes up to gray, cloudy skies and knows she can't go outside. She asks Martha what her family does on days like this, and Martha explains that some kids play in the cowshed, while Dickon goes outside rain or shine. She says that he's rescued half-drowned foxes and crows on days like this. Mary listens intently. She's very interested in Martha's home life and family, especially Mother and Dickon.
Martha's family, which appears tight-knit and loving, represents something entirely foreign to Mary. Because of Mary’s isolated and emotionally distant upbringing, it was a practically secret that people lived like Martha's family does, which makes hearing about them all the more fun and compelling for her.
Themes
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
Mary insists that she has nothing to do, as she can't sew or knit. Martha suggests she read and says that it'd be wonderful if Mrs. Medlock would let Mary into the library, but Mary has a better idea. She's not afraid of Mrs. Medlock, as Mrs. Medlock only looks in every day or two, and so she decides to explore the house after Martha leaves. Mary wanders into a long corridor and looks at all the pictures. Most of them are portraits, though some are landscapes. She notices a portrait of a little girl who looks a lot like her, and she wonders where the girl is now.
Remember that Mr. Craven is Mary's uncle; this makes it less surprising that some of the portraits resemble Mary. The fact that she can pick this out, however, shows that Mary is becoming more familiar with herself and can now recognize parts of herself in others, highlighting her developing sense of empathy. This newfound sensitivity can be attributed to the lessons she learned watching Ben Weatherstaff smile and making friends with the robin.
Themes
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Mary tries a handle on the second floor and it turns. She finds herself in a bedroom with furniture that looks a lot like what Mary had in India, with another portrait of the stiff little girl over the fireplace. Mary opens several other doors and in one room, she finds a cabinet filled with a hundred little ivory elephants. She plays with the elephants for a while and then, she hears rustling. In a sofa cushion, Mary finds a mother mouse and six baby mice.
Finding the elephants and the mice shows Mary that she has the capacity to be like Dickon if she sets her mind to exploring. It also shows her that the natural world can make its way indoors, which helps her come to terms with how drab Misselthwaite Manor is on the inside going forward.
Themes
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
Eventually, Mary gets tired and decides to return to her room. She loses her way several times and finds herself at the end of a corridor next to a tapestry. She hears the crying sound again and in her anxiety, she puts her hand on the tapestry. She discovers that it's covering an entrance to a hallway that, at this moment, contains Mrs. Medlock. Mrs. Medlock is upset to see Mary, tells Mary that she didn't hear crying, and drags Mary back to her own room. Mary sits in front of the fire and angrily tells herself that she did hear someone crying.
When Mrs. Medlock insists that Mary didn't hear anything, it makes it clear to Mary that the staff are in fact keeping some sort of secret about the source of the crying—previously, Martha attributed the crying to the strange sounds the old home makes, while Mrs. Medlock crisply declares that there was no sound whatsoever. Again though, Mary sees this as an exciting challenge, which illustrates again how children view secrets differently than adults do.
Themes
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
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