Study Guide

The Secret Garden What's Up With the Title?

By Frances Hodgson Burnett

What's Up With the Title?

The Secret Garden sounds so mysterious—why wouldn't you want to pick this book right off the shelves and buy it? After all, why should a garden by kept secret from anyone? Don't you want to find out? So, first and foremost, The Secret Garden is a book title with just enough mystery to inspire curiosity in a potentional reader and (more importantly) a possible buyer.

But aside from the fact that The Secret Garden just sounds neat, it also contains two major hints about the kind of tale that the novel is going to tell.

First, secret: Much of the novel's suspense is based on how much kids like to keep secrets and generate mysteries for themselves. As Mrs. Sowerby puts it to Dickon, "there's nothin' children likes as much as play actin'" (24.16). The fact that there are so many elaborate secrets in this book doesn't add to a sense of danger, but instead it makes Mary and Colin's hard work weeding and planting in the Secret Garden seem more light-hearted and like a game.

And then there's the garden part. We get into this a bit more in the "Symbols" section, but we think it's pretty significant that this isn't The Secret Forest or The Secret Meadow. Frances Hodgson Burnett obviously values nature and thinks that kids should get out into it, but it's particularly important for these kids, Mary and Colin, to have something to take care of so they'll learn to be less self-absorbed. A garden needs constant upkeep and maintenance—the perfect spot for Mary and Colin to learn a thing or two about caring for something other than themselves.