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The Gardener

- Rudyard Kipling

Helen Turrell: Unwed mother; she was quite ashamed of the society as she was pregnant; she lied that she was going France for treatment

Michael Turrell: Son who got birth in France

Summary of the story “The Gardener”

When Helen Turrell became pregnant she was ashamed because she was not married. She left her home in England to have the baby in the south of France. When she returned to England, she pretended that the baby was really her brother’s child. The brother, George, lived in India but he had died falling off his horse. This meant that Helen had to look after the child. Helen told other lies. She said that she had to go to the south of France because she was ill. She said the child had been born in India but had been brought to the south of France by a nurse who had been dismissed when the child became ill, and she also said that she had given the child’s mother some money.

The child was called Michael. Helen didn’t tell him that she was his real mother. She said that she was his aunt and that he was her nephew. Michael was sent to a private school. At school, he was told that he was born outside mirage /illusion/ vision.

When the First World War began, Michael joined the army. He did not have to do much fighting, but he was killed by an exploding shell that completely buried his body. After the war, Michael was reburied in a huge cemetery in Belgium.

After that, Helen decided to visit the grave of Michael. On her way to the cemetery, she met a woman named Mrs. Scarsworth, who said that she visited graves for her friends who could not come herself. She took photographs of the graves. Late at night, Mrs. Scarsworth came into Helen’s hotel room. She said that she was telling lies. Her real reason for visiting the cemetery was to visit the grave of someone special to her (probably a secret lover).

On the next morning, Helen visited the cemetery. It was huge; there were thousands of black crosses that all looked the same. Helen did not know how she would find her son’s grave. A gardener approached her. Helen said that she was looking for her nephew’s grave. The gardener said he would show her the grave of her son.

1. What is the real relation between Helen Turrell and Michael?

There is no doubt that the relationship between Helen and Michael is that of mother and son. Helen was the mother of Michael. But, as she was an unwed mother, she was ashamed and so she did not declare it. She only said that Michael was the son of her brother, who had died in India. She also told that she had managed to bring the child from India only to rear him up.

2. What is the truth behind each of the lies Helen tells the village at the beginning of the story? Why does she tell these lies?

Ans: As Helen was an unwed mother, she was ashamed of the fact and she did not tell the truth to her villagers. Rather, she told different lies. Some of the lies told by her are as follows:

  • She had to go to France for treatment
  • Michael was her nephew and that his father was George Turrell
  • George had died a few days before Michael’s birth
  • Michael was born in India and Helen had given some money to Michael’s mother to get the child
  • Michael was brought from India to France by a nurse but as the nurse was careless, Helen had dismissed her

The truth behind all these lies was very simple. She herself was Michael’s mother. So, there was no question of either giving any money to Michael’s mother or dismissing any nurse. She had no disease. She hadn’t gone to France for any treatment. She had gone there to give birth to the child.

3. How do we know who the gardener really is?

There are many explorations to the question: who the gardener was. Some people say that he was only an employee. Some others say that he was Michael’s father, who was working there only to live by the grave of Michael. And the rest even argue that he was lord Christ himself as well. He said ‘son’ rather than ‘nephew’ while leading her to the grave.

But, I think that the gardener was the father of Michel himself. I think so only because the writer says that there was infinite compassion / endless love in his eyes. A human being who has the utmost respect and value for their ones only can have such an attribute. So, the gardener was Michel’s father. If it’s so, we can also guess that he had forgiven Helen for her crime.

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