Nathan's Reviews > The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
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May 07, 08

Read in April, 2008

I found Wind in the Willows to be one of those rare books that contains true joy. Several times since I have moved in with the Kenyons, I have gotten in a disagreement with another opinionated member of the household over the value of "dark" literature versus "light" literature. "It is so easy to write about dark things," she might say. "Why don't we focus on happiness?" I think when most people read a "happy" story, they find it shallow, unrealistic, and boorish since, as any random perusal of the news will reveal, a lot of bad stuff happens in the world! Could we accept Hamlet and his uncle making up, "hugging it out," if you will, instead of destroying each other? This ending would not be consistent with human nature, and although "realism" does not have to be included on the list of requirements for a good book, a great literary work must be true to human nature. By the same token, I think we often make the mistake of calling "dark" art good simply because it is dark. "Ooh, did you see that new band? They wear black lipstick and sing about rat rabies. Hope you're mature enough to handle it." I think something that's dark just for the heck of it is just as shallow as something that's full of bunnies and rainbows and princess ponies.
Anyway, there is a profound difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is merely an emotion while joy is a state of being that is rarely felt. It is a rendezvous with the metaphysical delights that God has created to pleasure our souls: friendship, loyalty, love, forgiveness, etc. Sure, these can be found in any sugary, sappy Christmas special or "Full House" episode, but these are just shadows of the real things. Because of its precious nature, Joy will necessarily be rare compared to the darkness but in the end is infinitely more valuable.
Now, I'll step away from my ramblings and actually talk about the book. Although I don't think Kenneth Graham was an inkling, Wind in the Willows seems to fall in quite nicely with the works of Lewis and Tolkien. It not only has British charm, but it also has a healthy dose of that deep male comradarie that figures so prominently in Lord of the Rings. A bunch of bachelors who have settled comfortably into their ways, the animals in WIW remind me of retired Oxford dons who feel they need nothing more than peace, a good pipe, and the morning paper. When Mole and Rat are together, they don't have to talk about any particular thing to emotionally satisfy the other. It is enough for them to be together and in this atmosphere of acceptance, they will inevitably share their dreams with each other. The whole book just feels cozy.
I also respect any book that doesn't have to resort to the whole "good vs. evil" thing for plot or theme. These are simple characters with common experiences that become profound through their commonness. Being lost, coming home, sharing a meal, fearing the wide world, conquering a foe, learning to row. Although WIW is a children's book, these themes make it feel much more real than the melodramas put out by Hollywood. Mole and Rat even get a taste of the profound when they encounter Pan, whom I believe represents the spiritual side of life which modern folks so foolishly ignore and deny.
Anyway, I liked the book. You should read it. Blah, blah, blah!
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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David Nathan, Wind In the Willows is a childhood favorite. I even read a sequel written by another author.

I am pleased that you have read "1 books" in your 25 years. The wide world of literature is a wonderful place for the soul to run about, and I would encourage you to continue reading. Maybe by the time you are fifty, you will have read "2 books."

David


Caroline And if you are only going to read 1 book in 25 years, this is a good one to choose.


message 3: by Adrienne (new) - added it

Adrienne Really great review. It has inspired me to attempt to read this book again.


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