Project Write-up

Richard Yeomans

Dr. Foss

English 384-Section 01

April 24, 2020

Word Count: 453

Project Write-up

For my Major Project assignment, I actually partially referenced my own past in the story with regards to it having been the seventh grade that I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder after years of testing at the bequest of schools who would then be notified that I was too bright for the Special Education classes which they’d been trying to push me into. I also took reference from both John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men with how Lennie and George interacted, as Kevin has times where his internal mentality struggles between the two sides of a coin. The Lennie side of his mind (which drew on impulse), would try to do things such as hiding his homework to avoid doing it instead of playing video games or watching television, and George’s more logical side of the mind having to rein in such impulsivity to remind him of what happened the previous time he’d tried that. It also refers to Collin Craven from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden for the character of Sean who is trapped in a wheelchair (although in Sean’s case it was the result of spinal bifuda). Both Kevin and Sean are ostracized by their classmates for their perceived weaknesses.

I began with a rough layout after setting a character spreadsheet of who would be included, and then a general idea of the plot. Once that was completed, I then started on the rough draft of the story, typing it out before proofreading (I used the “Read Aloud” script reader on Microsoft Word to do this so as to remain impartial) and editing to see what worked and what needed to be tweaked/dropped. After that, I then retyped the final version for everyone’s enjoyment.

I enjoyed working on Kevin, because it gave me a chance to look at things from my past through not just the eyes of my own self, but from the eyes of others who had experienced it at the time, with even seeing the old reports from the school board in regards to my testing as a young child when the teachers would be pushing for me to be put in Special Education because they felt that they couldn’t handle me due to issues like frequent daydreaming and not wanting to do assignments (and the Special Education teacher at my most notable Elementary school hated her job and would sadly talk down about her students in front of the regular students all the time (frequently saying that her students were the “stupid kids of the school”)). And as there is always more than one lens to look at an issue through, it was certainly beneficial for me healing some of the wounds of the past.

James’ Response to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden

In the first ten chapters of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, I struggled to find exactly where I should be looking to view this text in regards to the disability lens. I was looking for a single point to narrow my focus on, but as I read I soon realized how this text intersects with disability was going to be a little less obvious than I had originally assumed.

To begin, the introduction of Mary Lennox as the main character, calling her the “most disagreeable-looking child ever seen” and saying that “her face was yellow because she had been born in India and had always been ill in one way or another” struck me as some sort of chronic illness, but now I think the terms of her negative physical features stemmed from the neglect she faced from her parents and growing up without learning empathy for others, making her appear ugly on the outside to reflect the harsh prejudices she held internally.

Before the passing of both her parents and the remaining servants at the Lennox’s home in India, Mary does not cry for the loss of Ayah, the nurse who took care of her, but she cries as the house is in a panic due to a cholera outbreak, and she realizes she is forgotten. As it was said in the text, “Nobody thought of her, nobody wanted her.”

When Mary is found to be the sole survivor of the Lennox house, she is sent to a home filled with children who tease her for her temperamental nature, calling her “Mistress Mary, quite contrary.” This is the first instance of Mary’s slow but steady realization that she is not the center of the universe, and she reacts immediately with anger. She is then taken away by Mrs. Medlock who is the one to tell her that she will be moving to England to be with her Uncle, Mr. Archibald Craven. The description of Mr. Archibald Craven caught my attention the most, as they mention his physical disability, and then immediately the fact that he was married, implying that usually people with disabilities do not get to find true love, “… an he’d have walked the world over to get her a blade o’ grass she wanted. Nobody thought she’d marry him, but she did, and people said she married him for his money. But she didn’t – she didn’t.”

Upon finding this out, Mary immediately connects the idea of her Uncle with a French fairytale about a poor hunchback and a beautiful princess. She learns that Mr. Archibald Craven refuses to come out of the West Wing of his estate following the death of his wife, and also notes it sounds like something out of a book, but did not make her feel cheerful. She does all she can to hide any outward displays of interest, and stays fast to her default setting of apathy towards others.

This attitude stays the same for the first few weeks Mary lives in her Uncle’s estate. She is rude to the servant Martha, who she compares to the servants she lived with in India, and this is one of the starkest examples of Mary’s racism and entitlement. Her rage flies wild and she says “You don’t know anything about natives! They are not people- they’re servants who must salaam to you.”

This is where I’d like to introduce the idea that Mary is a metaphor for the secret garden itself. The garden that had belonged to Mr. Archibald Craven’s wife, which following her death had been locked and forgotten for ten years, the same age as Mary. The garden was allowed to fall into disarray, growing wild without the care of the wife. Mary was also allowed to grow wild, without a loving hand to guide her towards compassion and empathy for others.

As Mary grows, so does the garden. She learns how to connect with others and how to take care of herself. She learns about different lifestyles and realizes that happiness isn’t always equated to wealth. Not only viewing this story through a disability lens, but a lens that brings issues of race and class into the light as well has really helped me understand this story so far and hopefully will continue to do so as we read more.

I pledge.

Word count: 723