Updated: Aug 3, 2022
I posted a few quotes from “The Secret Garden” a little while ago. They are quotes that elicit a sense of wonder in my soul and joy in my spirit; so much of this sweet story does that for me.
But as I was rereading it, I came across some scenes that I did not remember when I read it years ago. Scenes that made me sad and scenes that made me think.
This book is set in England and was published in 1911, reflecting many beliefs of its time. Part of these beliefs are wonderful; this was a time when electricity was beginning to be readily available, when cars had just been invented, and the idea of flying was being made a reality. It was a time when the impossible was coming true.
It was also a time when people were learning that our thoughts matter. People started believing in the better. And this hope is what makes “The Secret Garden” so enchanting.
But this was also a time when people were more readily judged for their class status and skin color. In this story, the servants from India are greatly looked down upon, and these are the parts that made me sad.
I looked to see if there was a version of this story with these scenes edited out because I had not remembered them, but I could not find one. This also made me sad because it means that when I read this book before, these comments didn’t affect me as much as they should have. For that, I am disappointed in myself.
This led me to ponder yet another question. If I ever have kids, will I want them to read “The Secret Garden?” Or if I read it to them, will I shelter them from the tainted parts?
I think the answer is yes, I will let them read it, and I will let them read it with all its imperfections.
And here's the reason why.
This story offers a wonderful opportunity to discuss the truth about this world and our lives. We live on a glorious planet with unimaginable beauty. There is loveliness and abundance, just like in “The Secret Garden.” But there are also still some places that need work. There are still some people who have prejudices and say hurtful things. But that doesn’t mean we never go outside.
If we try to avoid every ugly thing, we will miss so much beauty.
I also still recommend this book because it really does incite a sense of possibility and wonder. It is such a joy to read about the garden coming into bloom and the children coming to life. But we can’t just ignore the racist and classist undertones. We can’t just excuse them as a product of the times; we need to discuss them and be sure we have conversations surrounding them that can lead to us teaching our children how to love others without bias.
So, what do we do when we find weeds among the roses? We pull them out, we instruct our children on why they don't belong there, and then we walk through the garden and help them to smell each and every bloom.
Maybe this story can teach us even more about life than I thought.