Anthony Buckley's Reviews > The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
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's review
Jun 02, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: politics, literature

This book was written in 1908, when the world was being shaken by the newly self-confident masses. Women were propagandising for the vote; the Irish were demanding Home Rule; the Trade Unions were showing their strength. Socialism theatened. A spectre was haunting Europe, and particularly England.

Wind in the Willows is an elegant parable about class struggle, about the dangers of decadant country-house-living in the face of powerful revolutionary forces.

There are maybe four generations in the story. There is the young man Ratty, a gentle sort of chap who spends his time messing about in boats. He is joined by the younger, less experienced Mole. Mole may even be petty-bourgeois, but he proves himself to be stout-hearted for all that. Mr Toad, however, has come into his inheritance, and lives in his country house. Toad is an irresponsible figure, taking up foolish hobbies of which, in the story, the most fateful is the motor car. The older man is Badger, and it is he that casts cold water on this irresponsibility.

But where is all this irresponsiblity going to lead? Outside this cosy comfortable setting, lie the dangerous forces in the Wild Wood. Mr Toad, besotted by his motor car, is arrested and sent to gaol. His defences down, his house is quickly occupied by the weasles and stoats who live in the Wild Wood.

To the rescue comes Mr Badger, who is wise enough to see that if Toad is to regain his valuable property, he must forsake idleness and frivolity and stand up to the people of the Wild Wood. So the band of gentlemanly heroes take up arms and re-establish the shaken social order.

"We shall creep out quietly into the butler's pantry -", cried the Toad,

"- with our pistols and swords and sticks - ", shouted the Rat,

"- and rush in upon them -", said the Badger,

"- and whack 'em and whack 'em and whack 'em - ", cried the Toad in ecstasy.

This is, then, a cautionary tale, a warning to the propertied classes to take up, if necessary, arms against the lower classes and to stop living lives of decadent indolence.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
January 1, 1954 – Finished Reading
June 2, 2009 – Shelved
June 2, 2009 – Shelved as: politics
June 2, 2009 – Shelved as: literature

Comments (showing 1-14 of 14) (14 new)

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Tshana I appreciated your review. I never looked into the story this deeply but now everything that you have just said is very clear! Thank you!

message 2: by Boris (new)

Boris Gregoric This is really insightful. Property is theft, even in children's fables, eh.

message 3: by Cecily (last edited Feb 05, 2014 05:05AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cecily I think it's possible to over-analyse children's books, often for entertainment value, but I think you strike a good balance.

It's interesting that you mention the rise of women in your opening paragraph: they are conspicuous by their absence in Wind in the Willows, even though the rise of the workers IS portrayed.

Anthony Buckley Cecily wrote: "women - - - are conspicuous by their absence" Yes indeed. What a curious collection of bachelors is portrayed. Even Toad and Badger are unattached. The only women (washerwomen etc)are servants and not potential spouses.

message 5: by Cecily (last edited Feb 05, 2014 05:06AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cecily Are Toad and Badger really unattached, though? Many read a repressed gay subtext (but perhaps that takes us back to over-analysing a children's book).

Anthony Buckley Cecily wrote: "Many read a repressed gay subtext"
I think Kenneth Grahame would have died from shock if Toad and Badger, or, worse, Ratty and Mole, had turned out to be gay! Nevertheless, this was a peculiarly masculine period, when women were supposed to fade away once the port and cigars arrived.
Except, of course, the women in question did not in fact fade away, but did rather the opposite.

Cecily And "hurrah" for them!

message 8: by Pat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pat CORDES A brilliant comment that I found very interesting but I still read it for the pure and gentle joy it gives to me.

message 9: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie Palmer Lighten up please! It was written for a young son. Good grief.

message 10: by Eric (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric lol!

Michael @Bonnie Palmer, while the text was written for his son, stories are never told in a vacuum. Grahame may have been trying to tell his son about the world they lived through characters the boy could relate to. I agree with Anthony, I think Grahame was writing about how woeful society at-large was. Grahame may have also wanted to show his son how glorious nature was with the appearance of Pan in chapter 7.

message 12: by Cosmic (new) - added it

Cosmic Arcata I was liking for a review of this book that would give a possible political allegory. Thank you for yours!

I linked to your review of this book in my discussion here:

There were a lot of political allegories written as children's books around this time. I can think of two others

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz


Can you add to this list? Why do you think that so many authors were choosing to write heavy subjects as allegories. Did this happen at other times that you know of?

Thank you for your review!

message 13: by Tom (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Pepper Spot on! And take a look at Jan Needles's retelling from the point of view of the lower orders: Wild Wood (1981, new edition 1914).


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