The secret garden, a walled garden at Misselthwaite that ten years ago was Mrs. Craven's pride and joy, symbolizes the late Mrs. Craven herself, though it grows into a symbol of Mary’s growth over the course of the novel. The garden is something that intrigues Mary from the first time she hears about it. She learns that Mr. Craven locked the garden and buried the key after his wife's death, as it was a painful reminder of her and the love they shared. As Mary begins to learn and grow through her engagement with the garden, it also becomes a symbol for Mary and Mary's growth, as she discovers kindness and compassion within herself as the garden blooms in the spring. Especially once Colin begins spending time in the garden, it begins to more broadly represent mothering, nurturing, and growth. In the garden, Mary and Colin learn to be happy, thoughtful, and caring people—all things that the novel suggests they would've learned from their mothers, had their mothers been present. Their exit from the garden and into Mr. Craven's arms then suggests that the children have outgrown their intense and youthful need for such a mothering presence and, at the end of the novel, are ready to enter the wider and more masculine world with the skills and habits the garden taught them.
The Secret Garden Quotes in The Secret Garden
All that troubled her was her wish that she knew whether all the roses were dead, or if perhaps some of them had lived and might put out leaves and buds as the weather got warmer. She did not want it to be a quite dead garden. If it were a quite alive garden, how wonderful it would be, and what thousands of roses would grow on every side!
"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."
"Could you keep a secret, if I told you one? It's a great secret. I don't know what I should do if any one found it out. I believe I should die!" She said the last sentence quite fiercely.
Then Mary did a strange thing. She learned forward and asked him a question she had never dreamed of asking any one before. And she tried to ask it in Yorkshire because that was his language, and in India a native was always pleased if you knew his speech.
"Does tha' like me?" she said.
"Oh, don't you see how much nicer it would be if it was a secret?"
He dropped back on his pillow and lay there with an odd expression on his face.
"I never had a secret," he said, "except that one about not living to grow up. They don't know I know that, so it is a sort of secret. But I like this kind better."
"He's been lying in his room so long and he's always been so afraid of his back that it has made him queer," said Mary. "He knows a good many things out of books but he doesn't know anything else. He says he has been to ill to notice things and he hates going out of doors and hates gardens and gardeners. But he likes to hear about this garden because it is a secret."
"You'll get plenty of fresh air, won't you?" said Mary.
"I'm going to get nothing else," he answered. "I've seen the spring now and I'm going to see the summer. I'm going to see everything grow here. I'm going to grow here myself."
"I shall stop being queer," he said, "if I go every day to the garden. There is Magic in there—good Magic, you know, Mary. I am sure there is."
"So am I," said Mary.
"Even if it isn't real Magic," Colin said, "we can pretend it is. Something is there—something!"
"You are just what I—what I wanted," he said. "I wish you were my mother—as well as Dickon's!"
All at once Susan Sowerby bent down and drew him with her warm arms close against the bosom under the blue cloak—as if he had been Dickon's brother. The quick mist swept over her eyes.
"Eh! Dear lad!" she said. "Thy own mother's in this 'ere very garden, I do believe. She couldna' keep out of it. Thy father mun come back to thee—he mun!"