Sunday, March 29, 2015

Parenting? What's parenting?

"Hahaha, oh, cousin, we're basically living in an apocalypse! Hahaha!"

The Secret Garden feels like it's got a hell of a lot more lessons for adults than it does for children. It seems to want to teach kids that it's good to explore and play and exercise. It seems to want to teach parents that they're fucking awful and their children run wild and believe in fairies and magic because they've got nothing else guiding them through life.

I had seen the movie but never read The Secret Garden before this week; it makes Mary's parents and Mr. Craven a lot more sympathetic than they are in the book while also making Mary and Colin out to be much bigger assholes than they actually are.

Mary and Colin are great characters, they just both start as scared, reactionary children. The Garden draws them out of their adult-imposed cages and they get to be free and happy and have some agency for once in their fucking lives. That's a really interesting contrast, by the way; both children are used to getting their way in a way that means essentially nothing by ordering around the hired help, but when they do work with their hands and make an actual effort at changing something they grow and change for the first times in their lives.

The language surrounding the Garden is marvelous, by the way. As are the descriptions of Dickon, a poor boy who tames animals and is instrumental in the taming of Colin and Mary. There's a wonderful, sweet magic in the beauty of the garden and the calm control of Dickon - that sweet magic is nearly destroyed when it is described overtly as magic by Colin as he attempts to heal himself; I think if I ever chose to read this book to my kids I might do some slight rewriting so that the wonder of these scenes speaks for itself instead of getting spelled out and thereby breaking its own spell.

Overall I enjoyed this book by I was somewhat frustrated by its flaws, which were so glaring in comparison to the rest of the story.

     - Alli

Burnett, Frances Hodgson. The Secret Garden. Amazon Publishing. Seattle: Washington. 1911.

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