What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Friday: Green living.

14 February 2017

Is It Still a Secret if You Can Just Read It?

After I saw The Secret Garden the first time, only days after re-reading the book, I planned to write a blog post about my impressions of the characters in the book vs the musical. Then I wrote that post and it turned out I had a lot to say about Rose. So here are a few more folks just to round things out a bit.

Since I have two Playbills to choose from, I chose the one
where nobody wrote on Mary's face.
Easy part first: the only dynamic characters in this story (book or musical) are Mary, Colin, and Archibald. For better or worse, everyone else is static, unless you count the folks who were alive and then dropped dead. However, I don't. Even though I think the musical hints at the Lennoxes neglecting Mary in a way that the book makes explicit, the Musical Lennoxes spend all but one scene hovering near her. That's not an arc; that's a personality switch due to no longer being alive.

Dr. Neville Craven: Does not have a name in the book, so that much is from the musical. Book Neville has his own house instead of being Colin's live-in doc, and while he's not opposed to the idea of Colin conveniently dropping dead and leaving him as the Misselthwaite heir, he won't let Colin come into harm if he can help it. The "villain" in the book is Colin's illness and inactivity, not Dr. Craven, so his evil side has to be amped up in the musical. And he's a great villain, the more so because he doesn't seem so bad at the beginning. Musical Neville is the quietly plotting, scheming bad guy who finally throws all caution to the wind and accidentally outs himself without Mary having to tell Archie what a horrible person his brother is.

Martha Sowerby: Martha is the oldest of 12, although we only know the names of a few of the other children. There's no telling how old she is (I've always presumed she's around 16, although she could be as young as 13, since her younger brother Dickon is 12--or she could be 20. Who knows?), but she's clearly been paying attention to her mother's words of wisdom and solid work ethic. As literary archetypes go, she's probably most like a Mentor. As dutiful daughters go, she's amazing--not only going home on her day off and helping her mother look after house and younger children, but also bringing home all her wages to do her part to keep the family fed, clothed, and housed. We don't really see that side of Musical Martha, who is more of a Mother Figure to both children than a Mentor. Also, Musical Martha sees Lily in Colin's face, which adds more mystery to how old Martha is. It's canon that Book Lily (Lilias, technically) visited the Sowerbys often, but in the musical you can get the impression that Martha worked at Misselthwaite when Lily was alive. But surely Lily wouldn't have approved of hiring a 10-year-old. It remains a mystery. (Mind you, in the most recent show Martha was played by an actor in her 30s and Dickon by an actor in his 20s, so apparently it doesn't matter that much.)

Come to the garden, but wash your face first.
Dickon Sowerby: The first thing Mary notices about Book Dickon is that he's clean. Clean. Musical Dickon goes around with dirt on his face, which his mother would almost certainly have some words about. Anyway! Dickon also helps keep the family fed, quite literally, by tending a vegetable garden. And he's another Mentor character to both Mary and Colin. And he's amazing, in both book and musical. I can totally believe that the song Book Mary heard him playing on his flute was "Winter's on the Wing." (Jenna will no doubt be disappointed that I shared a clip of anyone other than Charlie Franklin singing that song, but... there's not one of him.)

And finally... Mrs. Medlock: Not exactly a villain, but not really a good person, either. She's in the tough spot of keeping Archie's secrets, looking after an empty house, and making sure the unpleasant new arrival (Mary) disturbs neither. Book Mrs. Medlock is a friend of Martha and Dickon's mother, but then makes sure to tell Martha that if they were in a proper great house, she couldn't possibly have hired someone as poor and plain as Martha. She leaves Mary alone to do what she likes, but then threatens to lock her in her room when she catches Mary wandering around doing what she likes. Book Mrs. Medlock has to give up going to a close relative's wedding to collect Mary from the train station, and Musical Mrs. Medlock reacts by telling Mary that Archie wouldn't bother himself about her, planting the first seed of doubt in Archie's affection for Neville to bring into full bloom later. In short, she may not be a baddie, but there's not much to like, either.

I promise I'm not doing this with every book that's been adapted into something else, although I would love to see the Little House on the Prairie musical someday. In the meantime, if you really want to know what fans think of beloved books vs, oh, I don't know, perhaps their major Hollywood blockbuster films--the folks on Tumblr are always ready to tell you all about it.

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