The Secret Garden

by

Frances Hodgson Burnett

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Ben Weatherstaff Character Analysis

The elderly and cantankerous gardener at Misselthwaite Manor. Mary meets him on her first day outside, and the two initially don't like each other much. Despite this, Ben Weatherstaff introduces Mary to his friend the robin. Ben Weatherstaff has no qualms about hurting Mary's feelings or telling her to go away, which helps Mary to learn how to earn someone's friendship and attention. She eventually resorts to sneaking up on him, and the two decide they like each other. He introduces Mary to the basic tenets of gardening and later, it's revealed that he's been pruning the roses in the secret garden for the last ten years, though his rheumatics (arthritis) has kept him from scaling the wall for the last two years. On the first day that Colin spends time in the garden, Ben Weatherstaff catches the children in the garden and is initially angry with them for the intrusion. However, Colin uses his power as the master of the manor to make Ben Weatherstaff come into the garden, pledge to keep the children's presence in the garden a secret, and promise to help them restore the garden to its former glory. Ben Weatherstaff is an instrumental figure in Colin's recovery, as sharing the various rumors circulating about Colin's poor health (that he has crooked legs, is mentally disabled, and actually has a hunchback) makes Colin angry enough to stand and prove Ben Weatherstaff wrong. Though he's open about not being able to stay awake through a conventional church service, he participates fully in Colin's prayer circles and even suggests that they sing the Doxology. His introduction to Magic helps cure his rheumatics.

Ben Weatherstaff Quotes in The Secret Garden

The The Secret Garden quotes below are all either spoken by Ben Weatherstaff or refer to Ben Weatherstaff . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the HarperCollins edition of The Secret Garden published in 2010.
Chapter 4 Quotes

"A bird with a red breast was sitting on one of them and he sang."

To her surprise the surly old weather-beaten face actually changed its expression. A slow smile spread over it and the gardener looked quite different. It made her think that it was curious how much nicer a person looked when he smiled. She had not thought of it before.

Related Characters: Mary Lennox (speaker), Ben Weatherstaff , The Robin
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

She walked away, slowly thinking. She had begun to like the garden just as she had begun to like the robin and Dickon and Martha's mother. She was beginning to like Martha, too. This seemed a good many people to like—when you were not used to liking.

Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

"Do you like roses?" she said.

Ben Weatherstaff rooted up a weed and threw it aside before he answered.

"Well, yes, I do. I was learned that by a young lady I was gardener to. She had a lot in a place she was fond of, an' she loved 'em like they was children—or robins. I've seen her bend over an' kiss 'em." He dragged out another weed and scowled at it. "That were as much as ten year' ago."

Related Characters: Mary Lennox (speaker), Ben Weatherstaff (speaker), Mrs. Craven
Related Symbols: The Secret Garden, Roses
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 23 Quotes

And this was not half of the Magic. The fact that he had really once stood on his feet had set Colin thinking tremendously and when Mary told him of the spell she had worked he was excited and approved of it greatly. He talked of it constantly.

"Of course there must be lots of Magic in the world," he said wisely one day, "but people don't know what it is like or how to make it. Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen. I am going to try and experiment."

Related Characters: Colin Craven (speaker), Mary Lennox , Dickon, Ben Weatherstaff
Page Number: 284
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Secret Garden LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Secret Garden PDF

Ben Weatherstaff Character Timeline in The Secret Garden

The timeline below shows where the character Ben Weatherstaff appears in The Secret Garden. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
...the gardens are ugly and wonders if they'll be prettier in spring. An old man (Ben Weatherstaff) walks into the garden and seems surprised and unhappy to see Mary. He explains... (full context)
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Mary walks back to Ben Weatherstaff and coldly informs him that she's been through the gardens. He seems surly when... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
...before, and the narrator notes that this is why she feels so angry. She asks Ben Weatherstaff's name and he says that he's lonely too; the robin is his only friend.... (full context)
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
The robin flies over the wall again, and Mary cries out. Ben Weatherstaff explains that he lives there among the roses. Mary asks if there are actually... (full context)
Chapter 5
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
...that this is because of the moor and encourages Mary to play. Mary notices that Ben Weatherstaff seems to avoid her, and she spends most of her time walking outside the... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
...gardens and thinks it's strange that she can't find the door. Mary realizes that though Ben Weatherstaff said there's no door, there must be one since Mr. Craven buried the key. (full context)
Chapter 7
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
...Martha is gone. She heads outside, runs around the fountain ten times, and then finds Ben Weatherstaff. He's in a better mood and remarks that he can smell spring coming. Mary... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
The robin comes to visit, and when he cocks his head at Mary, Mary asks Ben Weatherstaff if the robin remembers her. Indignantly, Ben says that the robin is nosy and... (full context)
Chapter 8
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Mary wanders through the gardens, skipping and counting. She skips to Ben Weatherstaff and he comments that the skipping is putting red in her cheeks. Mary is... (full context)
Chapter 9
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
...an alcove, she notices pale green points sticking out of the dirt and remembers what Ben Weatherstaff said about crocuses, snowdrops, and daffodils starting to poke up. She grows increasingly excited... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
...secret, she tells Martha that Misselthwaite Manor is lonely, so she wants to be like Ben Weatherstaff and grow a little garden. This delights Martha and she says that Mother actually... (full context)
Chapter 10
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
...the garden, clearing grass from around the bulbs. She also takes to sneaking up on Ben Weatherstaff. Ben doesn't object to Mary as much anymore, though he does grumble that she's... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
Ben Weatherstaff and Mary greet the robin, who preens and sings for Ben. Ben teases the... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Excitedly, Mary asks if roses die when they're left alone. Ben Weatherstaff says that some died and tells Mary what to look for to gauge whether... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Mary skips away and thinks that she likes Ben Weatherstaff. She skips around the outside of one of the gardens, and when she gets... (full context)
Chapter 12
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
...flowers. She says that Mary shouldn't ask the head gardener, Mr. Roach, and should ask Ben Weatherstaff instead. She also assures Mary that if Mary finds someplace out of the way,... (full context)
Chapter 18
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
...friends with things. He admits he likes Mary, and Mary says that she, Colin, and Ben Weatherstaff are all alike. (full context)
Chapter 20
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
...Mary points out landmarks along the way—where the robin showed her the key and where Ben Weatherstaff works—and then, she steps into the bed, opens the door, and Dickon pushes the... (full context)
Chapter 21
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Chapter 22
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
Colin sends Mary to meet Ben Weatherstaff at the door and then asks Dickon to help him to a tree so... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
Colin commands Ben Weatherstaff to look at him and notice that he's not a hunchback or physically impaired.... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Colin grabs Mary's abandoned trowel and starts to scratch at the ground. Dickon, Mary, and Ben Weatherstaff watch with interest and after a minute, Colin remarks in broad Yorkshire that he's... (full context)
Chapter 23
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
...is something that seems to disturb Colin, though Mary assures him that both she and Ben Weatherstaff are strange, but less so since discovering the garden. Colin vows to not be... (full context)
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
In the following months the Magic seems real as Dickon, Mary, Colin, and Ben Weatherstaff watch the garden come to life. Flowers bloom, and Ben tells the children about... (full context)
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
The next morning, Colin summons Ben Weatherstaff and tells him that he wants him to stand with Dickon and Mary and... (full context)
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
...second nature. Mary notes that holy people in India did much the same thing, and Ben Weatherstaff says he's heard of that happening too—a local woman called her husband a drunk... (full context)
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
...experiment will work. He suggests they begin immediately, so Colin arranges everyone under a tree. Ben feels as though he's in a "prayer-meeting," but for once, he doesn't resent being there.... (full context)
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
Mary, Dickon, and Colin lead the way, with Ben Weatherstaff and the creatures following. They move slowly around the garden and after a while,... (full context)
Chapter 26
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
...when he's an adult and must speak about his "great scientific discoveries." As Colin speaks, Ben Weatherstaff watches him critically and notices how healthy Colin is starting to look. When he... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
...live forever and make Magic, and says he wants to recite something joyful and thankful. Ben Weatherstaff grunts that Colin might consider singing the Doxology. Colin has never heard of it... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Ben Weatherstaff approaches and points out Colin's strong legs to Mrs. Sowerby. Mrs. Sowerby then turns... (full context)
Chapter 27
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
While all this is going on in the secret garden, Ben Weatherstaff sits in the servants' hall drinking beer with Mrs. Medlock. Mrs. Medlock wants to... (full context)