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Introduction

1. Writing in 'Divine Healing', critic James Robinson notes that ''the cult of the invalid' was a common feature of Victorian life and literature.'



2. In this essay, I would like to consider how Frances Hodgson Burnett's early twentieth century novel 'The Secret Garden' runs counter to 'the cult of the invalid'.



3. With the narrative charting the curative process of both adult and child invalids, Hodgson Burnett's text undermines the literary depiction of invalidism as a valid lifestyle choice.

Writing in ... In this ... With the ...

Paragraph 1

1. In 'The Secret Garden', Hodgson Burnett structures the text's progression around two invalid characters: a father, Archibald Craven, and his son, Colin.



2. Each considers himself afflicted with physical disability - a damaged spine - and each suffers with episodes of mental frailty, the son lapsing into hysterical fits and the father displaying symptoms of melancholy or grief.



3. While the son is restricted to the 'sickroom' and resides entirely inside the house, the father engages with a secondary pursuit of the invalid: travel.

SECRET GARDEN INTRO: In ... Each considers ... While the son ...

Paragraph 2

1. Susan Sontag, in 'Illness as Metaphor', touches upon the invalid's relationship to travel.



2. 'The Romantics,' she writes, 'invented invalidism as a pretext for leisure (...) It was a way of retiring from the world without having to take responsibility for the decision.'



3. Favoured locations included the mountains or the desert, all landscapes 'that had themselves been successively romanticized'; Robinson, in 'Divine Healing', corroborates this suggestion that invalidism constituted 'a pretext for leisure' with travel books and medical guides to health resorts often considered in the same category of literature.

TRAVEL: Susan Sontag ... 'The Romantics' ... Favoured ...

Paragraph 3

1. Archibald Craven, in his invalid state, visits each of these romanticised landscapes.



2. Hodgson Burnett writes that 'he had been in the most beautiful places in Europe', always electing to stay in 'the quietest and remotest spots.'



3. However, in 'The Secret Garden', the invalid's life of travel free from responsibility is an unattainable fiction.

CRAVEN's TRAVEL: Archibald ... Hodgson Burnett ... However ...

Paragraph 4

1. Abandoning his young son in an attempt to relinquish his responsibilities, Archibald Craven remains melancholic.



2. Hodgson Burnett observes that despite his decade long pursuit of visiting beautiful places, the 'light' of each place 'never seemed to touch him.'



3. It is only when embracing his responsibilities and returning home that Craven is relieved of his mental anguish; the invalid lifestyle, promoted in Victorian culture, is depicted here as destructive and unprofitable.

ARCHIBALD RETURN: Abandoning ... Hodgson Burnett ... It is only when ...

Paragraph 5

1. Hodgson Burnett's depiction of Craven's son, Colin, is equally critical of the invalid lifestyle as it is portrayed in Victorian fiction.



2. In 'Enterprising Youth', critic Monika Elbert writes that the nineteenth century 'tradition' of invalids in children's literature presented 'injury or illness (as) the source of the invalid child's spiritual and moral growth.'



3. Charles Dickens 'Tiny Tim' is offered as the archetype of this morally pure, physically disabled child.

CHILD INVALID: Hodgson Burnett's ... In 'Enterprising Youth' ... Charles Dicken's ...

Paragraph 6

1. Colin Craven, in contrast, is a thoroughly disagreeable child.



2. Prone to fits of rage and indifferent towards all but himself, Colin made to believe that he cannot walk and thus spends most of his life lying in bed.



3. The invalid lifestyle is thrust upon him by a series of guardians and physicians; it is only when Colin rejects the trappings of this lifestyle that he is able to reverse his stunted maturation.



4. In discarding his carriage in favour of his legs and neglecting the sickroom for the garden outside, Colin improves dramatically in terms of both moral character and physical aptitude, eventually transforming into a ' laughable, lovable, healthy young human thing.'

COLIN: Colin Craven ... Prone to ... The invalid ... In discarding ...

Conclusion

far from being the 'source of spiritual and moral growth', invalidism hampers Colin in