The Secret Garden

by

Frances Hodgson Burnett

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Secret Garden can help.
Martha is a young maid at Misselthwaite Manor who is put in charge of caring for Mary when she arrives, though she's not technically a nurse or lady's maid. A local, Martha speaks in broad Yorkshire, and through her speech patterns and her love of telling stories, she introduces Mary to aspects of her new home. As the oldest of twelve children, Martha has had lots of practice caring for young children, but Mary's inability to dress herself and other moments of learned helplessness present special problems for Martha. She dedicates herself to teaching Mary how to be more self-sufficient and is successful in this endeavor. Martha is extremely kind and adores her mother, Mrs. Sowerby. She gets one day off per month, which she spends at her family's cottage, helping her mother bake and clean and care for her siblings. She and Mary form a more friendly relationship as Mary learns to do things for herself, and so Martha begins to tell Mary all about her family and life on the moor, and specifically, about her little brother Dickon. Though she initially tries to keep Colin's existence a secret, per Mr. Craven's request, when Colin and Mary finally do meet, Colin instructs Martha to facilitate Mary's visits. Martha is also the first to let slip that there's a secret locked garden somewhere on the grounds, piquing Mary’s interest.

Martha Quotes in The Secret Garden

The The Secret Garden quotes below are all either spoken by Martha or refer to Martha. 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

Mary had never possessed an animal pet of her own and had always thought she should like no one. So she began to feel a slight interest in Dickon, and as she had never before been interested in any one but herself, it was the dawning of a healthy sentiment.

Related Characters: Mary Lennox , Dickon, Martha
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

But the big breaths of rough fresh air blown over the heather filled her lungs with something which was good for her whole thin body and whipped some red color into her cheeks and brightened her dull eyes when she did not know anything about it.

But after a few days spent almost entirely out of doors she wakened one morning knowing what it was to be hungry, and when she sat down to her breakfast she did not glance disdainfully at her porridge and push it away, but took up her spoon and began to eat it and went on eating it until her bowl was empty.

Related Characters: Mary Lennox , Martha
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

"I wonder," staring at her reflectively, "what Dickon would think of thee?"

"He wouldn't like me," said Mary in her stiff, cold little way. "No one does."

Martha looked reflective again.

"How does tha' like thysel'?" she inquired, really quite as if she were curious to know.

"Not at all—really," she answered. "But I never thought of that before."

Related Characters: Mary Lennox (speaker), Martha (speaker), Dickon
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

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 8 Quotes

"Martha," she said, "they were your wages. It was your twopence really. Thank you." She said it stiffly because she was not used to thanking people or noticing that they did things for her. "Thank you," she said, and held out her hand because she did not know what else to do.

Related Characters: Mary Lennox (speaker), Martha
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

Mary's lips pinched themselves together. She was no more used to considering other people than Colin was and she saw no reason why an ill-tempered boy should interfere with the thing she liked best. She knew nothing about the pitifulness of people who had been ill and nervous and who did not know that they could control their tempers and need not make other people ill and nervous, too.

Related Characters: Mary Lennox , Colin Craven, Martha
Page Number: 201
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Secret Garden LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Secret Garden PDF

Martha Character Timeline in The Secret Garden

The timeline below shows where the character Martha 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
...She points out the window and asks what it is. With a smile, the maid, Martha, says that it's the moor and asks Mary if she likes it. Mary declares that... (full context)
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
Martha laughs and says if Mrs. Craven were alive, she wouldn't even be a servant—she's too... (full context)
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Martha says that it's time Mary learned and notes that Mother spoke often about "grand people's... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
This frightens Martha, so she comforts Mary and begs her to stop crying. Despite herself, Mary finds Martha's... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Martha talks the entire time. Mary tries not to listen at first, as to express her... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Then, Martha tells Mary to go outside and play. Mary doesn't want to go out, but decides... (full context)
Chapter 5
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
...a few days of this routine, Mary wakes up and knows that she's truly hungry. Martha insists that this is because of the moor and encourages Mary to play. Mary notices... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
...up. By the end of the day, Mary is pleasantly tired. After supper, she asks Martha why Mr. Craven hates the garden. Martha is happy to sit with Mary and talk.... (full context)
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
...a strange cry from somewhere within the house. Mary tries to point it out to Martha, but Martha insists that the house makes strange sounds. Suddenly, the wind gusts through the... (full context)
Chapter 6
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Childrearing and Friendship 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... (full context)
Chapter 7
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
...is greeted by a brilliant blue sky that's brighter than any she saw in India. Martha cheerfully explains that the weather fluctuates this time of year with spring on the way.... (full context)
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Wistfully, Mary says she'd like to see Martha's cottage. Martha thinks that Mary doesn't look so sour now and says that she'll ask... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Mary feels lonely knowing that Martha is gone. She heads outside, runs around the fountain ten times, and then finds Ben... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
...She also thinks that she likes the garden, just like she likes the robin, Dickon, Martha, and Mother. (full context)
Chapter 8
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Martha returns the next day with stories of her day out. She and Mother washed and... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Martha leaves and returns with a present for Mary, courtesy of Mother: a jump rope. Having... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
As Mary heads outside, she stiffly thanks Martha for the jump rope and holds out her hand. Martha shakes it, laughs, and says... (full context)
Chapter 9
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
...so she runs back to the manor and eats the biggest dinner she's ever eaten. Martha is delighted and remarks that Mother will be pleased at the effect of the jump... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
...she had a spade. Carefully, as to keep the secret garden a secret, she tells Martha that Misselthwaite Manor is lonely, so she wants to be like Ben Weatherstaff and grow... (full context)
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Martha explains that Dickon will bring the purchases to Misselthwaite himself, which again excites Mary—she finds... (full context)
Chapter 12
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
Mary races back to her room and excitedly tells Martha that she's been with Dickon and thinks he's beautiful. Martha is confused and says that... (full context)
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
As Mary grabs her hat to go back outside, Martha says that Mr. Craven is back and wants to see her. Mary turns white as... (full context)
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
...Medlock enters and tells Mary to put on her best dress and brush her hair. Martha helps her and then Mary silently follows Mrs. Medlock. Mrs. Medlock leaves Mary with Mr.... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
As soon as Mary is back in her room, she excitedly tells Martha all the good news and that Mr. Craven is nice, just miserable. She races back... (full context)
Chapter 13
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
Later, Mary shows the note to Martha. Martha explains that the nest is a missel thrush nest, and Mary understands that he's... (full context)
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
...moment, Colin decides that he's going to keep Mary a secret too. He explains that Martha is caring for him now while his nurse is away, and she'll tell Mary when... (full context)
Chapter 14
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
It's still raining in the morning, so Mary stays inside. Martha comes to sit with her in the afternoon and notices immediately that there's something bothering... (full context)
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
Martha insists that Mary bewitched Colin, and Mary asks if Martha is talking about Magic. She... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
...muses that it might do Colin good to get outside to see things growing, but Martha says that they took him outside once to see roses and it was a disaster:... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Colin is settled among cushions when Mary arrives. Mary mentions Martha's fear of being dismissed, so Colin summons Martha. He curtly reminds Martha that she must... (full context)
Chapter 15
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Secrets and Independence Theme Icon
...Mary now notices that she looks very different now than when she arrived from India. Martha insists that this is the work of the moor air. (full context)
Chapter 16
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Mary returns to the house late for dinner and asks Martha to tell Colin that she's too busy in the garden to visit. Martha looks afraid,... (full context)
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Martha is waiting in Mary's room and says that Colin has been throwing a tantrum all... (full context)
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
Mary finds Martha in her room with a box of gifts from Mr. Craven. The box contains games,... (full context)
Chapter 18
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
The next morning, Mary sleeps late and then listens to Martha as she eats breakfast. Martha says that Colin is quiet, but feverish and worn out... (full context)
Chapter 19
The Power of Thought Theme Icon
...his creatures are going to visit and are to be brought right to him by Martha. The nurse is uncertain about the animals, but Colin says that Dickon is an animal... (full context)
Healing, Growth, and Nature Theme Icon
Childrearing and Friendship Theme Icon
About ten minutes later, Colin and Mary hear Dickon's animals in the hallway. Martha shows Dickon in, accompanied by Soot, Captain, Nut, Shell, and the lamb. Colin stares in... (full context)