The Personification of The Wind and the Willows as a Reflection of the Destruction of Nature

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Maggie Fox Spring 2015

English 241 Essay 2

The Personification of The Wind and the Willows as a Reflection of the Destruction of Nature
Humanity as a whole feels ownership over nature. This privilege persona often causes abuse of nature. In The Wind in the Willows this is explored from the point of view of an animals, and how when they abuse this land it is seen as a more heinous act. Kenneth Grahame the author of the tale wrote it after he was injured during a failed armed robbery of a bank that he was in. Retiring after this incident, The Wind in the Willows was created during his retirement with the intent of being a children’s book that taught the tough life lessons. The Wind in the Willows personifies Nature through animals therefore expressing deep interconnection of human culture and the natural world as expressed in different kinds of texts whether written or physical landscape. By showing the connection between human’s culture and their natural world counterparts it gives us a better understanding of our relationship with nature today.

Mr. Toad is a character meant to symbolize the pompous upper class. Toad is very elitist and has a feeling of disgust for the lower class. Upon meeting two member of the lower class, the characters of Mole, and Rat, Toad displays his arrogance. Feeling that as a member of the upper class his knowledge is superior to others.

‘There’s real life for you, embodied in that little cart. The open road, the dusty highway, the heath, the common, the hedgerows, the rolling downs! Camps, villages, towns, cities! Here to day, up and off to somewhere else to-morrow! Travel, change, interest, excitement! The whole world before you, and a horizon that’s always changing! And mind! This is the very finest cart of its sort that was ever built, without any exception (Grahame Kindle Locations 259-262).

This section of the story illustrates the connection between the personification of Nature and through the animal’s relationship with each other. This is an example of the text portraying one of Maran’s requirements for a Nature text, which is in the actual text of the literature. The text of this story is a reflection on the myths of England and the idyllic, hierarchical society (Pearce). This idea of the text that is meant to teach children lesson’s reflecting the English society as a whole is a interesting way for the author to display that very social class dependent society and how the separation of class causes negative impact on the society. Toad is trying to display the societal structure as a positive by excitingly describing the different facets of society.

The above quote that is apart of Toad’s interaction with the lower class reflects the reader element of Marran’s ideas on Nature text. Complexity of the time that the story is taking place in, which is shown through the different dimension that is the setting of the story. Maureen Thum describes this Nature landscape as having a mental dimension, expressing a subject seen in the external world as an expression of the one that exists in the journey taken by the characters. This different look of the landscape of the forest as a different dimension allows the reader to understand the subtext that Grahame is trying to convey to the reader. By portraying these characters as animals it allows the book to be perceived as a story attainable for the younger audience. By showing these ideas through the journeys of the external world as described by Thum are dependent on what is happening in the internal world of the forest. Toad reflects this as he describes his cart as the finest one every created, in his closed, internal world the car is a positive invention in that it allows faster transport. However when looking at the effect that it has on the external world, which is the harmful impact of pollution on the Nature.

Grahame first had The Wind in the Willows in 1908, which is during the time of industrialization. Not long before the book was published in 1903 automobile started to be available to the public. This advance in technology is reflected in the tale.

“‘People come— they stay for a while, they flourish, they build— and they go. It is their way. But we remain. There were badgers here, I’ve been told, long before that same city ever came to be. And now there are badgers here again. We are an enduring lot, and we may move out for a time, but we wait, and are patient, and back we come. And so it will ever be.’ ‘Well, and when they went at last, those people?’ said the Mole. ‘When they went,’ continued the Badger, ‘the strong winds and persistent rains took the matter in hand, patiently, ceaselessly, year after year. Perhaps we badgers too, in our small way, helped a little— who knows? It was all down, down, down, gradually— ruin and leveling and disappearance. Then it was all up, up, up, gradually, as seeds grew to saplings, and saplings to forest trees, and bramble and fern came creeping in to help. Leaf-mould rose and obliterated, streams in their winter freshets brought sand and soil to clog and to cover, and in course of time our home was ready for us again, and we moved in. Up above us, on the surface, the same thing happened. Animals arrived, liked the look of the place, took up their quarters, settled down, spread, and flourished. They didn’t bother themselves about the past— they never do; they’re too busy. The place was a bit humpy and hillocky, naturally, and full of holes; but that was rather an advantage. And they don’t bother about the future, either— the future when perhaps the people will move in again— for a time— as may very well be. The Wild Wood is pretty well populated by now; with all the usual lot, good, bad, and indifferent— I name no names. It takes all sorts to make a world. But I fancy you know something about them yourself by this time” (Grahame Kindle Locations 724-737).

Grahame felt that the engine was the worst thing to happen to society, by having a negative impact on the environment. This is a reflection of the Author element of Marran’s requirements. By expressing the pain that Nature is feeling through this section of speech from Badger of the environmental status. In addition this control over the environment was meant to reflect the female association with Nature, and how male dominance, in the sense of ownership is affecting it. Grahame uses the writing to reflect Nature in the female, in that the male presence that is the car is overtaking and hurting the environment (Kuznets). When looking at the environmental context of this section. The Nature element of the forest was special to Grahame due to his use of the natural world as an escape upon retirement. By showing the environment being hurt by the environment it further reflects this, continuing the idea of the engine being detrimental to Nature.

The issue of the ownership over the environment hurting Nature is still a very relevant issue. The Wind in the Willows is still relevant in that it is our furthering of technology that is hurting the natural world. By thinking of the animals from hierarchal views placing them below humans, it perpetuates this view. By abusing the ability to use land to further humanity, it actually continues to damage the land. If animals were thought of as equals and could be personified as done in the story this harm could be reversed, and the damage would be limited.

Works Cited

Darcy, Jane. "The representation of nature in The Wind in the Willows and The Secret Garden." The Lion and the Unicorn 19.2 (1995): 211-222.

Grahame, Kenneth (2014-09-23). The Wind in the Willows (Kindle Locations 259-262). Open Road Media. Kindle Edition.
Grahame, Kenneth (2014-09-23). The Wind in the Willows (Kindle Locations 724-737). Open Road Media. Kindle Edition.

Kuznets, Lois R. "Kenneth Grahame and Father Nature, or Whither Blows The Wind in the Willows?." Children's Literature 16.1 (1988): 175-181.

Maran, Timo. “Towards an integrated methodology of ecosemiotics: The concept of nature-text.” Sign Systems Studies 1-2 (2007): 269-294.
Pearce, Sharyn. "Literature, Mythmaking and National Identity: the Case for Seven Little." (1997): 10-16.
Thum, Maureen. "Exploring" The Country of the Mind": Mental Dimensions of Landscape in Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 317.3 (1992): 27-32.

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