Tom's Midnight Garden

by Phillipa Pierce

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Analyze and discuss the final chapter of Tom's Midnight Garden.

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The conclusion to Philippa Pearce's novel Tom's Midnight Garden highlights and resolves two of the book's major themes of loneliness and the gift of finding true friendship, even in the strangest of circumstances. Tom and Hatty rediscover and solidify their friendship and leave behind their loneliness.

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Two of the major themes in Philippa Pearce's novel Tom's Midnight Garden are loneliness and the gift of finding true friendship in the oddest of situations. The very end of the book highlights and resolves both of those themes.

When Tom first arrives at his aunt and uncle's flat, he is desperately lonely. Separated from his family because his brother, Peter, has the measles, Tom finds little company among his aunt and uncle. His aunt tries to comfort him with rich foods that merely give Tom a stomach ache. His uncle always wants to reason with him, to make him see how things are and how he should behave. While they both have good intentions, Tom's aunt and uncle leave him feeling more alone than ever.

Hatty, like Tom, is desperately lonely. After her parents died, she was sent to live with her aunt and cousins. While her older cousins tolerate her for the most part, especially James who feels sorry for her, her aunt despises her. Hatty is left to tag along after her cousins and explore the back garden. It is there she first meets Tom. She watches him for a long time before she lets on that she can see him, for of course Tom does not belong in the garden at all, nor in Hatty's time, in the normal course of things. Only through the mysterious striking of the grandfather clock can Tom step through the backdoor of his aunt and uncle's apartment building and into Hatty's world.

Tom and Hatty develop a true friendship despite their strange and even fantastic circumstances. Hatty doesn't care that Tom can't open doors the normal way (but can walk through them if he really tries). She doesn't care that Tom is wearing pajamas and one slipper. Tom doesn't care that Hatty is an orphan or that she seems to have lived a long time ago. They are just glad to have found each other in their loneliness. They spend hours exploring the garden, playing games, telling each other stories, climbing trees, building a tree house, and simply enjoying each other's company.

But then, after Hatty falls from the tree, Tom notices something. Hatty is growing up. Time passes more quickly in her world than in his. For although Tom goes back to the garden every night to meet Hatty, in Hatty's time, months can go by before she sees Tom again, and in the meantime, Hatty becomes a young woman. Yet the friendship between Tom and Hatty remains strong even as it changes until the time of the great frost. Tom and Hatty skate all the way down the river to Ely, but on the way back something strange happens. When Barty gives Hatty a ride home, suddenly Hatty can no longer see Tom. She is not focused on him, and he disappears from her sight. He finds himself back in his own bed, crying out, “No! Not this Time! Not Now!”

Tom will not let himself dwell on what has happened, though. He still has hope that he can be with Hatty in the garden for as long as he wants. The night before he is to return home, he hurries downstairs at midnight but, to his horror, the garden is gone. He finds only the dustbins and fence of his own time. He cannot get to Hatty, and he screams her name in panic, thinking he has lost her forever. He has lost his chance, and he is more lonely than ever.

But Tom doesn't realize that Hatty heard him cry out her name. The strange landlady Mrs. Bartholomew, who lives upstairs, heard Tom in the night, and Tom discovers when he goes to apologize to her that she is, in fact, his very own friend Hatty, now an old woman, but Hatty just the same, as he realizes when he spends time with her. By the time they've been together for only a few minutes, their friendship is solidly back in place, no matter the difference in their ages. They are Tom and Hatty together again.

The time comes, however, when they must part, for Tom must go home. But now, both of them know that their good-bye will not last. They can write to each other and visit. They can remain friends, even in the strangest of situations, and neither of them will be lonely again now that they have found each other. Tom and Hatty try to behave formally in front of Tom's aunt, but it doesn't work. Tom dashes back up the stairs and hugs Hatty tightly, confirming their friendship and resolving two of the novel's major themes.

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