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The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame is one of the most celebrated classic children’s literature. The story emanates from the childish, irresponsible, and impulsive adventure of Mr. Toad. A rich man from all indication, unfortunately, obsessed by his uncontrollable desires. It is this vaulting ambition despite several attempts to bring him to lands him in jail. This teaches him a bitter lesson, the other side of life.
The Wind in the Willows uses animal characters to craft an interesting novel for children. They include the Mole, Rat, Badger, and Toad. It is a great book that should capture both adult and young readers.
The book has various versions of short stories featuring the rat and mole. It is written in chronological order and appears in chapters. The interesting themes which the author explores hold the book together. There is no real plot in the book. The writer focuses on the moral lessons, and his intentions become apparent in the middle of the story.
Kenneth Grahame started writing a couple of stories for his son during his bedtime. Their compilation let to the book’s publication in 1908. This beautiful work follows the traditional description of British tales. Due to the exciting adventures, it became one of classic English children literature of all times with exceptional themes such as; adventures, friendship, pride, and greed.
The tales relate the adventures of several animal friends and neighbors in the English countryside—primarily Mole, Rat, Toad, and Badger. Although the animals converse, philosophize, and behave like humans, each creature also retains its distinctive animal habits. The story begins when Mole decides to go to the riverbank one morning rather than do his spring cleaning. There he comes across his friend Rat, a water rat, and they spend the spring and summer together. One day they visit the irrepressible, generous, and boastful Mr. Toad, owner of Toad Hall, who possesses large amounts of money but not much brain. Toad is given to fads, and Mole and Rat join him in an excursion in his present enthusiasm, a horse-drawn caravan (a cart with beds and cooking equipment), until a speeding automobile frightens the horse and wrecks the caravan. Toad is mesmerized by the car. Mole and Rat later go to the Wild Wood to visit the kindly and responsible Badger, to whom they report that Toad has bought and smashed several automobiles.
The three friends attempt an intervention, to prevent Toad from buying and wrecking more motorcars. Despite their efforts to contain him, Toad escapes, and, when he encounters an unattended car, he steals it. Inevitably, he is caught and sent to prison. However, the jailer’s daughter takes pity on him and helps him escape. After many further adventures, Toad is at last rescued by Rat. He learns that in his absence, Toad Hall has been taken over by weasels and stoats, but Badger knows that Toad Hall has a secret tunnel entrance, and the interlopers are evicted in a climactic battle, followed by a celebratory banquet.
Between Toad’s adventures, the other three main characters experience quieter events, notably in the lyrical chapters “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” in which the god Pan appears, unnamed, to help Mole and Rat find Otter’s lost child, and “Wayfarers All,” in which Rat is nearly hypnotized by the tales told by a sea rat.
Almost all the characters in the novel undergo one mission or the other, to explore the beauty of nature. The adventure starts with Mole, who leaves his Spring Cleaning, his underground abode, and walks towards the Riverbank. There he meets Water Rat, who becomes his companion and a close friend. Both begin another adventure as Water Rat teaches Mole how to paddle a boat. Mole and Rat leave the Riverbank to see Toad. Also, the journey of the two friends to visit elusive Badger, who lives in the Wild Wood, leads them into more exciting adventures.
Many of us have undertaken one journey or the other with unimaginable experiences. The author tries to show us that sometimes, adventures can even turn out to be disastrous instead of enjoyable. However, you can learn many things and also meet different kinds of people. Unfortunately, we have people who’re anti-adventure amongst us. The truth is that both the good and bad experiences you get during an adventure can influence or change your life. This novel helps to ignite the fire of adventure in the readers. And it may have been the author’s intention.
A true friend is worth more than one million dollars, so do many believe. It’s only someone who has not experienced the character of a strong friendship that will dispute it. The friendship between Rat and Mole in the novel is worth applauding. Going through the book, you will realize that the major characters are neither selfish nor greedy. Instead, they help one another to grow and succeed. Water Rat is a perfect example of a selfless friend. Rat saves Mole from drowning when he is learning how to row a boat. This shows that a friend in need is a friend indeed. When Badger, Rat, and Mole learn that Toad has been in the hospital, they all show concern for his health. The funny thing is that they advise him to stop his gullible venture, but Toad refuses to listen to them. So, the friends decide on the unimaginable; keep him under house arrest to protect him from self-destruction.
Between these friends, we can see love, care, and support each time any of them goes contrary. Each of them is ready to extend a hand of help at any point in time. Mole is like a child, inexperienced and driven by fantasies on the broader world. But Rat’s friendship with Mole makes him a strong and better person.
In our journey of life, we need friends who will direct, help, and add value to our lives. Some friends will come into your life, but leave you without anything to write home about. There are friends that subtract from you, but good friends increase one’s worth. In the concept of friendship, both friends should be able to accept each other’s differences. They should realize that one person’s weakness may just be another person’s strength.
Pride destroys a man’s life without warning, for it often comes before a fall. Many of us allow pride and arrogance to push people away from us due to what we have. Toad sees himself as a prominent figure because he is rich. He prefers to protect his image more than any other thing. He continues to talk about himself and possession all the time. But he fails to understand that his action can reduce him to the point where he can become an object of mockery. This end becomes apparent when he finds himself in jail for stealing and driving a car found in an open road.
In prison, he refuses to neither eat nor drink and curses himself bad names. He finds himself in a state of depression because his image has been ridiculed.
There is a story of a man who became a king in his village due to his nobility of mind and good character. Unfortunately, he died after a few months. The kingmakers decided to crown his son, believing that the son will continue in the ways of his father. The son became arrogant and took advantage of the opportunity and almost destroyed the village. Everybody deserted him because of his ego. One day, the villagers found him dead by suicide. That’s how a promising young man lost favor and his life due to pride.
Once you reach the top, take care as the only way left to go is down. Many people allow their material things to influence them so much that they treat others with disdain.
Greed is a disease that can eat deep into the soul of a human being. The author understands this deadly human nature and tries to depict its implications through the character of Toad. When we allow our excessive desires to dictate our actions and thoughts, the end is usually disastrous. Greed has led many to kill or destroy the career of others without cause. Let’s go back to the novel and appreciate the author’s understanding.
Toad’s hunger to drive an automobile car symbolizes the extent of his greediness. Despite several attempts by his friends to save him, he still lands in the pit. He did not stop at driving one, but he went ahead to destroy seven cars. Thereafter, Toad learns a lot of lessons from his excessive and insatiable desire.
Greediness is like a virus and cancer that eats slowly into the deep of most people’s life. It has led so many people to their early grave. Few happen to survive the cankerworm. It is greediness that raises the level of prostitution, the quest for more, and even causes some leaders to misappropriate public funds.
Symbolically, Toad represents a move away from rural life in pursuit of the industrial revolution in Britain, tagged the era of Edwardian England. His careless life in leaving rural life is a sign of unchecked industrialization in Great Britain. Also, Toad’s attitude signifies the class discrimination in the 18th and 19th centuries when the Upper Class demonstrated a sense of irresponsibility, inhumanity, and oppression towards the poor.
Children and parents alike are advised to read Wind of the Willows because of the moral lessons found therein. Critics have voiced their displeasure of Kenneth Grahame’s use of animals to depict human beings. Even Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, criticized the author. Despite the criticism, the novel has grown to become popular amongst every generation.
Grahams used his writing style to narrate the events and changes that took place during the industrial revolution. The motorcar represents the technological revolution that took place in Great Britain when machines took the place of human beings in the production of goods and services.