Review: “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame

For the love of books

It is not accurate to describe The Wind in the Willows as a fable per se.  Although it has keen examples of personification in its animal main characters and an unquestioned acceptance of their interaction in the human world, The Wind in the Willows is perhaps Kenneth Grahame’s tribute to nature and all its wonders, which unassuming human eyes usually take for granted.  He also maintains the dignity of the human race as much as possible, human society reflected in the dress and manners of his protagonists.  They are indeed dressed and pressed for everyday life, keeping as many of their respective animal traits as exclusive human traits.  Set in marshes and near ponds, Grahame only introduces the realistic kinds of wildlife expected to live in such surroundings.

Ratty has the odd quality of a gentleman about him, just as Toad of Toad Hall has all the attributes of an aristocrat with the most eccentric personality and the most extravagant spending habits.  Mole and Badger are also part of the quartet; like their real life animal counterparts, they all manage to get along despite the virtual tug-of-war between their mentalities due to their natural inhibitions.  Grahame draws up an animal kingdom that adheres to scientific perception by dividing up animals’ ranks into human-like “classes” and the subsequent prejudices between them.  Like the criminal underworld portrayed in many detective novels, the weasels stand first to exude that sense of corruption and evil as the antagonists of The Wind in the Willows.

When Toad is tricked into giving up his family home in a moment of temptation, he immediately realizes how he has blindly taken even his friends for granted and ignored the possibility of enemies.  In spite of his luxurious, unearned life and how quickly his riches turn into rags, Toad has been naïve.  Nevertheless, he does learn from his mistakes and takes back his inheritance with more exuberance and spirit than before.

The Wind in the Willows has several momentous adventures (of which Toad is the main instigator) woven into the fabric of Grahame’s idyllic narrative.  Calm tones and prolonged feelings capture the environment of The Wind of the Willows, for the author measured time differently, not by action or adventure scenes but by the intrinsic value of life, a virtual nature hike of indeterminable length according to the viewer’s scale of merit.

Grahame watches every wisp of wind or change with intent focus. To hope for a quick story with animals is ridiculous, because The Wind in the Willows has only occasional outbursts of this kind. Grahame extracts humanity’s view of time and replaces it with that of animals, asking his readers to slow down and reassess the world from the eyes of his tiny heroes. There are battles, triumphs, injustice, and even the sting of pragmatism for the romantic Toad and his somewhat practical friends. Simplistic and emitting unrestrained longing, The Wind in the Willows is a classic that children will always adore and adults will never forget.

Original review: Part 1: No one forgets ‘The Wind in the Willows’Part 2: No one forgets ‘The Wind in the Willows’, Examiner.com

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