Dorothea Brooking’s The Secret Garden takes place deep within Misselthwaite Manor, where the Secret Garden draws Mary Lennox and Collin Craven together to discover the healing power of nature. Mary finds herself in conflict with her subconscious – she is a sick orphan child – and with servants who she considers as lesser beings. In addition, everything at Misselthwaite Manor is locked and there are many secrets that no one will share with Mary. Brooking’s The Secret Garden implies that often children are forced to mature at a young age. Brooking also suggests that the loss of a loved one can cause much sadness.
The film begins with Miss Mary Lennox in India, her Aya has just run from her home leaving her alone. Aya’s yellow dress symbolizes cowardice toward the disease. Mary’s white nightgown, white walls, and white canopy hanging over her bed represent her young innocence. It is winter and Mary mourns, dressed in black aboard a black train, as she is taken to England. All of the green and lively plants on the opposite side of the fence by the railroad tracks symbolize Mary’s journey to discover the beauty of nature. The obscured clock chiming upon her arrival represents the beginning of a new time Mary has yet to see.
Mary’s climb up the staircases symbolizes her ascent to transformation. The giant mirror represents her present state of mind and who she will become. Mary throws herself in front of the fireplace, covers her ears, and says, “I hate it! I hate it all!” Her youthfulness is flaming for change but she is insecure with herself. In the morning, the open window and clear blue sky symbolize a new beginning. The East Wing ringing bell foreshadows Mary’s transformation in the future. Mary’s constant ascending and descending stairs represents her conflict with transformation. The open black gate and the “dead, cold plants” symbolize Mary’s open desire to find life. The robin redbreast and his song represent the freedom and beauty of nature. The animal card game symbolizes in the inner personality of Mary who brave as a lion, John who is defenseless like a chicken, and Martha who is as passive as a cow.
Spring is coming. The buried key symbolizes Mary’s hidden personality and the white snow drops by the water symbolize her innocence and transformation. Curtains cover the window while it rains, she is not ready to face her rebirth yet. The “crying wind” forces the door to fly open and fills the hall with light. Mary becomes aware that she must find this sound in order to change. In the next scene, Mary receives a skipping rope and discovers the Secret Garden. She takes off her glove to hold the key. This action represents her state of readiness to become one with her new self. The Secret Garden is Mary’s place where she grows up with the budding garden. When Mary removes the choking weeds from the snow drops, she is also removing her choking past from her personality. Dickon brings tools to fix up the garden, building blocks to fix up herself as well. The allusion “Mistress Mary Quite Contrary” is introduced by Dickon in the Secret Garden. Rain appears again, this time as renewal, and Mary descends the stairs by candlelight to Collin’s bedroom. When she blows out the candle and hides behind the curtain, Mary hides; but she comes back out and relights the candle, a symbol of her growing transformation. When Mary looks at Collin’s back and find no bump, it is ironic because even his nurse knew there was no bump and is pain came from never sitting up.
“A green mist” symbolizes renewal of life in the spring. Rosebuds represent the youthful rebirth of Mary. Mary enters spring as a new person who respects those around her and especially nature. Mary’s final step to transformation happens when she takes Collin to the Secret Garden on a bright sunny spring day. His yellow blanket symbolizes his cowardice, but when he takes off the blanket and stands, Collin has overcome his fear of dying. Running to his father in the Secret garden, in the final scene, symbolizes nature’s healing power.
Melanie E Magdalena