Six Degrees: From Isabel to Mary Lennox
Here we go once again with another Kool Book in the Six Degrees series. Last week, J.L. Mbewe wrote about the Atherton series. Though I have yet to read those books, it sounded like a fascinating series, blending elements of both science fiction and fantasy in a very unique world.
One of the characters from the book is Isabel, the protagonist Edgar’s friend and confidant. Though Edgar at first finds her annoying, the two learn to work together in their struggle to overcome the oppressive yoke put on them by the leaders of the highlands. J.L. described her as “loyal, strong-willed, and she is a good shot with her sling”, and “responsible for organizing the rebellion against the highlands.”
It took me a while to find a connection for her, but eventually I landed upon Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden. Though the two stories sound like they couldn’t be more different, Mary plays a similar role in The Secret Garden, leading a rebellion of a different sort in the world of Misselthwaite Manor. You see, though Misselthwaite is not ruled by tyrannical overlords, it is dominated by sadness, a sadness which stems from the death of Mrs. Craven, former mistress of the manor. In the wake of her death, her family and even the servants are stuck in a sort of malaise which has made the whole manor a dreary and awful place to live.
Archibald Craven, lord of the manor, lives in a sort of half-existence, often traveling, trying to overcome the loss of his dear wife. Though he’s not strictly mean, he is certainly distant and uncaring. Though the entire manor languishes under his grief, the person most affected by it is his son, Colin Craven. Colin is an apparently sickly young boy when Mary first stumbles upon him, tucked away in one of the forbidden chambers of the manor. Mary soon learns that she and Colin are cousins. An irritable and demanding child, Mary soon becomes his only friend in the lonely manor. Like Isabel and Edgar from Atherton, Colin and Mary do not exactly get along all the time, but eventually they become the best of friends.
Another friend who comes alongside to help them is Dickon, the twelve year old brother of Martha Sowerby, one of the maidservants of the manor. Like his older sister, Dickon is a good-natured lad who is robust and carefree and everything Colin wishes he could be. Dickon claims to be able to talk to animals and has a love of nature which infects both Mary and the shut-in Colin to explore the grounds around Misselthwaite. Martha, for her part is a simple, yet pleasant woman, concerned not to upset her master, Mr. Craven, yet at the same time sympathetic to the poor state of “Master Colin”, as she calls him.
Another servant, the gardener Ben Weatherstaff does not share Martha’s sweet disposition. Though he often acts gruff and unsociable, he is nevertheless basically kind. It is he who introduces Mary to the robin which helps her discover the secret garden.
The last character I’ll mention is Mrs. Medlock, the head of the servants at Misselthwaite. Mrs. Medlock is not as rough around the edges as Ben, but she is far more strict with “Mistress Mary”. Her steadfast insistence in following Mr. Craven’s dictates is instrumental in maintaining the gloomy atmosphere of the manor so in that since, though she is not herself actively mean or cruel, her behavior non-the-less makes her a villain of sorts in Mary’s attempts to rouse Colin from wallowing in the self-pity and despair which has kept him bed-ridden and miserable for so long.
As a footnote, I’d like to add that, while I did enjoy The Secret Garden, some of the healing which takes places as a result of the children’s discovery of the garden was extremely wishy-washy. The author describes how each of us has a sort of ability to create a sort of “magic” in our world, apparently through the power of positive thinking. These passages soured what is otherwise an interesting tale of the transformation of an entire family from grief and despair into hope and a renewed appreciation for each other and for the simple things in life like animals, fresh air, and the beauty which can be found in a well tended garden.