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The Secret Garden: Chapters 1, 2 and 3 
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Not to be repetitive, but I think this lengthy quote of the book by Thomas just shows that racism is a more complex issue than, "A" is racist, "B" is not. Racism as a way of thinking in the culture that surrounds us is like a clear pollutant in the water that fish swim in. It's hard not to let any trace of it pass through your gills, but you can at least be mindful of it as you swim around, avoiding positively bathing in the larger toxic spills of it, or smearing it about unreflectively and denying it exists because it's transparent to you.

I think the author reveals it, portrays characters who are more or less exponents of it to some degree, but their perspectives are not necessarily the validated voice of the author in the text. I think she's straighforwardly showing how messed up the whole society of her setting is, in this, as in a lot of respects.

It is also possible to admire someone's religious sophistication and still hold other racist conceptions about their culture. In this passage it's clear that Mary is outraged and insulted to have been thought "black," but later she shows that she has a respectful grasp of the concept of the universe being contained inside of an Indian god's body, visible down his throat, which leaves her cousin cold and uncomprehending in his "common sense" British superiority. How can the universe be inside a person who is in the universe? Someone like Mary or her author can think this is a profound insight produced by Indian culture, widely uncomprehended in her own, and yet still think the culture that produced it is in other ways inferior to her own.

It reminds me of this woman I used to work with who talked to me about "the Chinese and their clever little hands" after seeing an exhibit of Chinese art. I understood this to be both "positive" in its intended judgment and annoyingly racist and condescending. (Both/and, Interbane!) She also used to say "namaste" to me in an effort to honor my heritage or something -- this is what is meant by the term "well-meaning white people." I suppose I could have replied, "Gutten morgen, Fraulein," and she might have gotten it. Or she might not. I didn't, so we will never know.


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Tue Dec 09, 2008 5:53 pm
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GR9
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I think the author reveals it, portrays characters who are more or less exponents of it to some degree, but their perspectives are not necessarily the validated voice of the author in the text.


Yes, she reveals how much racism is based on ignorance.
Such as:

Book
Quote:
"For!" cried out Martha. "Does tha' mean that they've not got skippin'-ropes in India, for all they've got elephants and tigers and camels! No wonder most of 'em's black. This is what it's for; just watch me."




Tue Dec 09, 2008 7:03 pm
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GentleReader9 wrote:
In this passage it's clear that Mary is outraged and insulted to have been thought "black," but later she shows that she has a respectful grasp of the concept of the universe being contained inside of an Indian god's body, visible down his throat, . . ..


Where is this about the throat, please?

I think the little girl from India symbolizes theosophical ideas.

Tom



Wed Dec 10, 2008 1:23 am
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GentleReader9 wrote:

In this passage it's clear that Mary is outraged and insulted to have been thought "black," but later she shows that she has a respectful grasp of the concept of the universe being contained inside of an Indian god's body, visible down his throat, . . ..


Where is this about the throat, please?


Thomas, you caught me committing the Crime of the Irresponsible Reader. I haven't re-read this in a long time, but I have more recently watched 2 or 3 film versions and I think that scene came from one of them rather than the book. :oops: I am now sheepishly re-reading more rigorously before I post. If I find that the Krishna with the universe down the throat scene was in the book, I shall certainly post about it in the appropriate chapter thread, but in fact, I spoke of it before getting into the book that far on this reading. (Now I will be thought pedestrian by the truly careful readers. Oh well.)


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Thu Dec 11, 2008 9:53 pm
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GentleReader9 wrote:
Thomas, you caught me committing the Crime of the Irresponsible Reader.


May thy sins be forgiven thee. But perhaps you are being a gently imaginative reader instead? I did find this:

Quote:
"Yasoda was the first to became aware on Krishna's special powers when she chanced to look down his throat. She was stupefied to see the entire universe there."

http://www.themystica.com/mythical-folk ... ishna.html

And part of the Magic is that what is without (subtle influence of cosmic life) becomes within.

Tom



Thu Dec 11, 2008 11:42 pm
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Oh I knew I didn't imagine the story about the universe down Krishna's throat, and I'm sure it was at least in a video version of Secret Garden. I just had forgotten it wasn't in the actual book.


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Fri Dec 12, 2008 11:43 am
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GentleReader9 wrote:
Oh I knew I didn't imagine the story about the universe down Krishna's throat, and I'm sure it was at least in a video version of Secret Garden. I just had forgotten it wasn't in the actual book.


I haven't seen any of the videos. Please comment on them -- how they accord with or deviate from the book, production quality, etc. Others might be interested.

I am puzzled about how a producer could work Krishna's throat into The Secret Garden. In your recent blog you mentioned the relation of inner and outer:

Quote:
This incident has come to my mind recently in reading postings at this site, the notion of something kindred needing to be already inside for outside things to speak to a listener.


Could this line of thought have put you in mind of Krishna's throat?

Tom



Fri Dec 12, 2008 12:45 pm
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TH
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I am puzzled about how a producer could work Krishna's throat into The Secret Garden. In your recent blog you mentioned the relation of inner and outer:


In the book Mary spends many hours with Colin telling him stories about India, which we do not hear. In a video this is where this could have easily been worked in as one of the stories Mary brought from India.



Fri Dec 12, 2008 2:46 pm
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Post Movie Versions
I think the version I am thinking of is the 1993 version with Kate Maberly and Maggie Smith. (I googled and looked at pictures of the VHS box covers to decide this. My mother has two different versions which I have watched in recent years more than once when visiting. The other version either wasn't in the Googlesearch results or I didn't recognize the cover.)

There is a conversation in the movie version between Mary and her hypochondriacal cousin in which she tells him about Krishna having the universe inside him and he thinks initially that this is nonsense. In this video version conversations that take place between Mary and her cousin which are merely alluded to in the book are represented in scripted conversation. The book says she puts him to sleep as her Ayah put her to sleep, but does not record specifically with what words or songs.

The videos take other liberties with the story. There is even one where the cause of death for Mary's family is earthquake rather than cholera and she is one among many orphans at the station and in transit. It's the other orphans who taunt her with "Mary, Mary quite contrary" and she is the last to be claimed, standing alone at the station at night, abandoned and unwanted in England, unshed tears glistening dramatically in the big, dark eyes of the actress. It's a much more sentimental and upsetting version than the book. In the book we don't feel so sorry for Mary because the author tells us she wasn't used to having any love so that she didn't really miss it, and that she doesn't actually care that much what other people think or feel about her, nor gives it any thought until she gets to England and starts to grow around other children and people who dare to confront her on more equal terms than "the blacks" did.

In the book I get a stronger sense that Mary is in step with her social environment all along, that she doesn't "break her heart" as a more sensitive child would, but merely feels isolated. She only discovers she is lonely and that that is why she is unhappy through Ben's explanation about the Robin and how he feels.

In this way of characterizing the situation, Burnett does a really good job of not excusing the self-centeredness and entitlement of unexamined class and race privilege as if it were simply some kind of injury done to a poor, sensitive and wronged child, for whom we should weep. It is a sickness from neglect and unwholesome upbringing, but not as great as the injury done to those Mary treats as "less than" herself (which is truly a violent kind of oppression, backed up by the adults, so that she can even slap her Ayah's face without being stopped). Mary's insensitivity is one that the individual can grow out of in becoming aware of other life and other people around her, should she choose to do so. No one is actually stopping her with insurmountable, institutional cruelty.


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Fri Dec 12, 2008 3:09 pm
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realiz wrote:
n the book Mary spends many hours with Colin telling him stories about India, which we do not hear. In a video this is where this could have easily been worked in as one of the stories Mary brought from India.


Yes, you're right. Also lullabies.

Quote:
" Somehow she was sorry for him and did not want him to lie awake, so she leaned against the bed and began to stroke and pat his hand and sing a very low little chanting song in Hindustani" (end of ch. 13).


Shanta may know these:

गाना

नन्ही कली सोने चली, हवा धीरे आना

पलकों पे चलते चलते

प्यारा सा गाँव

सपनों के घर की

सो जा चांद

आहिस्ता आहिस्ता निंदिया तू आ

मेरे घर आई

http://rahulruchi.blogspot.com/2007/06/ ... abies.html

Tom



Fri Dec 12, 2008 6:23 pm
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:laugh:

Well, I don't read Hindi, but I can tell you these particular songs were probably not sung to me as lullabyes, since they're from Hindi musicals. I've probably heard some of them, however. Some of my various and specifically, complicatedly and distantly related cousins, and my father like to watch Indian movies and I have watched more of the products of Bollywood (sp?) than the average American, I daresay. Not that I have a clue what I'm looking at without subtitles or translation, or in this case cheating by going to the link to read the transliterations. I would have to ask my father if he has ever used any of these as lullabyes. For all I know he might have been singing, "When are you going to go to sleep you heavy, whiny kid? I want to put you down and go to bed...." Probably not though. He is a very kind man who loves to sing to babies and carry them around. The particular Indians I know would have been kind to Mary as a child, not because they were afraid of "Mem Sahib," (a somewhat uncharitable nickname given to my mother by one acquaintance of my father's, by the way, as in "How is Mem Sahib? Give Mem Sahib my best.") but just because they are kind people who love and tolerate little children, almost to a fault.


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Fri Dec 12, 2008 7:27 pm
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Post 
Quote:
In this way of characterizing the situation, Burnett does a really good job of not excusing the self-centeredness and entitlement of unexamined class and race privilege as if it were simply some kind of injury done to a poor, sensitive and wronged child, for whom we should weep. It is a sickness from neglect and unwholesome upbringing, but not as great as the injury done to those Mary treats as "less than" herself (which is truly a violent kind of oppression, backed up by the adults, so that she can even slap her Ayah's face without being stopped). Mary's insensitivity is one that the individual can grow out of in becoming aware of other life and other people around her, should she choose to do so. No one is actually stopping her with insurmountable, institutional cruelty.


What an interesting analysis. It makes me think. Mary is a child and acts as a child would. But as you say her temper tantrams are "backed up" by adults (or ignored). If she were a real child she may be doing those things to get attention since she is neglected. And even those things do not get attention from her parents!

It is interesting to see Mary's transformation and I am beginning to get a sense that the secret garden is the symbol of this transformation in Mary. Her inner beauty beginning to come out. In the beginning of the book Burnett comments a great deal on what an ugly child she is. But as the book goes on she begins to become more beautiful, on the outside and on the inside.

It is bothersome to me that this transformation happens in England but maybe that is the point. Maybe the oppression is so great in India at this time that it would be impossible for her to become "aware of other life and other people around her". And she does not find this transformation through the upper classes, as so far (and I am currently at chapter 11) we have not seen her uncle at all. Rather, this transformation takes place in her contact with the servants working in the house.

There is so much beauty in this book, and the language that Burnett uses to write the story is very soothing and poetic. The characters of Martha, Ben, and the robin are so likable. There have been so many movies made of this book and I have never been interested in any of them. In fact, this is the first time I have read this book. It is a much better book than I ever realized.



Mon Dec 15, 2008 10:53 am
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Well, I for once have nothing to say . . . I have listened to these first three chapters and think I will enjoy the book.

I don't see anybody's views as being racist - the writer is simply telling the reader how her characters perceive things.

Anything less would be dishonest.

If you are writing a story that involves two thugs playing a game of pool, you want to make the language realistic - give the two thugs realistic natures - you cannot make them over, to pander to someone's idea of what's proper or improper.

You cannot have one of the thugs say 'Oh, Floss!' when he sinks the white ball.



Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:47 am
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I have read the first three chapters and read the comments of this thread. I have to say that I was confused by some of them. So with that said let me throw my two cents in.

As previously stated, it was quite normal in the Edwardian and even Victorian times for the upper class both European and US to hand their children to nannies. Some had very limited interaction with their children due to their social obligation. I am currently reading Eleanor Roosevelt's autobiography and she states that she handed her first two children over to nannies. She states that she never fully connected with them so on her other three children she raised them herself. I am a big fan of old black and whites. Alot of films show the upper class even in the 30s, 40s, and 50s handing their kids off to nannies. If you really want to look at it the Brady Bunch did the same thing. Alice was always telling Mrs. Brady what happened with her own kids.

On the issue of "blacks" and racism, I have not seen one instance of racism in the book. I believe the term "black" was referring to what we use it for today. It was not meaning anything negative. I have several friends who are from India. Their skin color can range just like any other culture. I have seen extremely light Indians to very dark Indians. My family is Native American. I have one sister who is almost clear in complexion while another sister is the color of latte. We all have the same father and mother but we range. That is how we are in the human race. So what is my point on this. The term "black" is a point of reference. Most of the hired help were native Indians who are darker in complexion than their lighter employers. Heck, my good friend Sajeda, who is Indian descent, calls her mother black.

I am actually feeling sorry for Mary. She has to endear so much. She has obivously never felt love from a caregiver/family member. To have your parents die and not be informed but be shoved off to the side is horrible. Then to be ignored by a foster family just to go back to family to be shoved into a room and forgotten again is completely horrible. Poor thing.


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Fri Dec 19, 2008 3:13 pm
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Raving Lunatic wrote:
I am currently reading Eleanor Roosevelt's autobiography
Here is a story about Eleanor Roosevelt. My mother, born Marie Grant, then Marie Tulip when she married, wrote memoirs called Seven Generations of a Queensland Family. She grew up in Mackay, and writes:
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Because of the Brisbane Line, the policy of the Australian Government not to defend the country north of Brisbane in the event of a Japanese invasion, people in the north were asked to go south if they could. So our family spent the war years in Brisbane. Mum and Dad packed up everything in the Mackay house and it was taken over by the Red Cross and used by the Americans as an Officer's Mess till the end of the war. In September 1943 when Eleanor Roosevelt visited Mackay to encourage the troops, she stayed at our place. They put a special light in my parents' bedroom for her. The gossip was that she used to stay up very late at night working and writing letters, and the officers assigned to attend her used to pray, Please God make Eleanor tired'... Eleanor Roosevelt's ceiling light stayed in Mum and Dad's bedroom, a kind of comic historic object. But also an honour of sorts. I think of her as a great woman, and Mum admired her... I taught English and French at Roosevelt University, a skyscraper in downtown Chicago. Eleanor Roosevelt founded it after the Second World War as a liberal university which didn't exclude blacks and Jews. Most of the students were black, and many had very low entrance scores as a result of Chicago's discriminatory school system.



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