The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, allegorically relates to the concept of a journey. Not only does this extract describe the arranging of a physical journey but also it illustrates different people’s connotations of and responses to the idea of a journey. This excerpt shows that The Wind in the Willows can be interpreted and enjoyed by children and also examined on a deeper level by adults. The author, Kenneth Grahame, has successfully conveyed the two possible levels by the development of characters and the use of techniques including simple ideas, colourful language, enthusiastic dialogues and the use of active and passive voice.
Though this novel was written for children, it has been enjoyed throughout time by adults as well. It features the adventures of animal characters – principally Mole, Rat, Badger and Toad who each possess recognisable human characteristics, while still exhibiting authentic animal habits. It is in this sense an allegory: this means it has relevance beyond the surface adventures of these animal characters. It tells us something about human attitudes and behaviours. Primarily though, the novel was composed for children – the author has allowed the characters to be animals which creates an element of fantasy – that animals are capable of talking and performing human tasks.
The use of personification has effectively conveyed the human qualities of these animals. This is perhaps one of the reasons why this novel is such a successful children’s story. Wind in the Willows relates well to enthusiastic responders, such as children because of the colourful language, active voice and enthusiastic dialogues. Toad is the main example of this; he is full of energy and excitement. Kenneth Grahame has conveyed Toad’s personality through his dialogue and action, using strong verbs and punctuation.
The opening of this excerpt immediately communicates information about the novel, the bucolic setting, the characters and their personalities. There are three main characters prominent in this scene; Toad, Rat and Mole.
Toad is rather eccentric, dynamic and irresponsible, this excerpt also implies that he is spontaneous and impulsive. Here he has organised to go on a journey full of adventure and excitement, so he believes. Toad seems enthusiastic and full of energy as he describes the journey and his new caravan ad infinitum “Camps, villages, towns, cities! Here today, up and off to somewhere else tomorrow! Travel, change, interest, excitement! The whole world before you, and a horizon that’s always changing!” The use of exclamation marks proves Toad’s energetic personality.
We obtain the impression that Toad is perhaps over indulged as a member of the leisure class, which conveys a critical opinion of the author in linking this social type or position to the name ‘Toad’. Throughout the excerpt we become aware that there are no female characters, which conveys the beliefs held by people at the turn of the century; that women do not enjoy the freedom and independence of men. This gender stereotype demonstrates a complete contrast to Toad with his freedom and carelessness. Toad acts as the active voice “he led the way” which supports his already presumed social power over the other characters. Toad is eager to embrace change and for rejecting the status quo.
Ratty is the other extreme. Rat is the ‘intelligent’ leader of the group; he is constantly frustrated and annoyed at the antics of the boastful, fun but impetuous Toad. He is untrusting and very against the idea of a journey. “I’m not coming…I am going to stick to my old river, and live in a hole, and boat, as I’ve always done.” He is resisting change and anything that promotes it, he is happy in his little world. “The Rat snorted and thrust his hands deep into his pockets, remaining where he was.”
Mole is in between these two characters, he is eager for excitement and adventure but at the same time enjoys the security that home offers. Mole is indecisive and gives the impression of weakness; he does not stand up for himself and his wants. “Mole’s going to stick to me and do as I do, aren’t you, Mole?”
While this short excerpt represents the proposal of a physical journey for these characters, it is also an imaginative journey for the reader as we engage with the characters and their stories. This excerpt introduces the different perceptions of journeys – Toad sees it as an avenue of excitement, of adventure and change, Mole is undecided – he is torn between his intense need for the security and comfort of his home and the desire for adventure, Rat is the voice of reason and is adamant in not changing, in staying with the old ways.
The Wind in the Willows is a successful child’s novel, which describes the lives of four main characters. In this excerpt we are allowed an insight into three of these characters Toad, Rat and Mole. This novel can also be appreciated by adults, on a deeper level where they can examine the different characters and interpret deeper meanings. Grahame has effectively established these characters and their personalities through the use of simple colourful language, enthusiastic dialogue and active voice.