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BOOK SUMMARY

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Publisher:
Lancer Books
Number of pages:
253

Summary:

Mole has a sudden case of spring fever, gives up on his house-cleaning, and wanders in the fields and meadows. He finds himself by a river (he has been such a stay-at-home that he has never seen it before) and meets the Water Rat, who invites Mole into his boat, something else he has never seen before. "Believe me, my young friend," Rat says dreamily, "there is nothing —absolutely nothing —half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."

A world of friendships, the joy of carefree wandering, of picnicking, and playing has opened for Mole. Half way through the book, the Mole, the Water Rat and the Badger go to Toad Hall to try to help their friend Mr. Toad who has a bad habit of reckless driving. Toad has quite a few adventures. His irresponsible living and extravagance lead to the loss of his home to the barbaric stouts and weasels. The four friends go to battle to regain Toad Hall. The book ends with a banquet where all the friends rejoice at Toad’s return.

Strong Points:

  • Under the surface of a charming story with its lovable characters and its long-vacation atmosphere, there is subtle encouragement in kindness, patience, industry and loyalty.
  • Kenneth Grahame writes beautiful English prose. Richness of language adds to the depth of the book.
  • The story captures very well the meaning of true friendship. For instance, Badger reprimands Toad’s foolishness: "Independence is all very well, but we animals never allow our friends to make fools of themselves beyond a certain limit; and that you’ve reached."  Toad’s friends regard him as "another self" as they correct him into becoming more mature.
  • Another theme of the story is the emphasis on leisure. In our modern world in which people shift back and forth from work to working at making recreation, we forget the value of spontaneous play. In the Wind in the Willows, the river is where leisure is taken and enjoyed.
  • "Fascinated by machines as modern boys are, Toad learns the hard way, by experience, that adventure and technology are incompatible…Toad is a fat, spoiled, sporty English boy who finds out what the modern world is like, is rescued and gets home." (John Senior)

Cautions:

The mystical digression at the center of the book "The Piper at the gates of dawn" needs to be explained. The god of nature in the form of Pan is a pagan myth.

Conclusion:

The Wind in the Willows shows us a quartet of endearing characters, friends with real virtues contributing to each other’s moral growth.

Note: The teacher who wants to find an in-depth study of the book can read with profit Tending the Heart of Virtue by Vigen Guroian p. 88-97 and The Mysteries of Life in Children’s Literature by Mitchell Kalpakgian p. 82-86.