Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett


An excerpt of a review recently posted on Schaeffer's Ghost:
[...] Both Mary and Colin start out as selfish, unpleasant children. They are rotten little beasts, in a way that the protagonists of children’s books are rarely permitted to be. It’s actually kind of refreshing. As a child, I remember identifying more strongly with the willful and autocratic Mary than I ever did with more angelic storybook children. 
The cure for this rottenness turns out to be, well, each other. [...] Until he meets Mary, Colin has never encountered anyone willing—or able—to stand up to him. Mary is impervious to his tantrums and refuses to cosset him when he’s engaged in a neurotic fit. In Colin, Mary sees what she used to be (and what, in many ways, she still is). She realizes that the things that helped her be less awful might have a similar affect on Colin, and so, for the first time in her life, she decides to do something for the benefit of another. 
In many ways, this is a rather upside-down example of ‘iron sharpening iron.’ (Proverbs 27:12) Rather than spurring one another on to good deeds, Colin’s sinful selfishness bumps into Mary’s sinful selfishness, and in order to get on together, they each learn to abandon their respective egos (at least to some degree) and become better, happier children in the bargain. And there’s certainly some practical truth to this. When we see our sins reflected in others, we get a better picture of just how awful and ugly our sins really are. And experiencing the practical consequences of our sin (like broken relationships) can certainly motivate us to behave ourselves better. 
But despite Burnett’s optimistic view of human relationships, the changes resulting from our interactions with others and with the world around us are, at best, external changes. Other people can’t change our hearts. The only way we can actually be transformed from rotten sinners into ‘good children’ is through the saving work of Jesus Christ. [...]
Full review available here.

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