The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame has challenged the reader to see the world and individuals in different ways, through the adventures of four animal friends that exhibit human behaviour, and through themes like journey, rights and responsibility and friendship and relationships.
The novel is a comment on the English social structure of the late 19th Century during the time of industrialization. In the novel Toad represents the Ruling class, who has wealth, power, privilege, status and responsibility. But Toad can be egotistical and arrogant, according to Rate "perhaps he's not very clever-we can't all be geniuses: and it may be that he is both boastful and conceited." Toad is inspired by venturing off into the unknown. In the novel Toad decides to go travelling. When Toad goes on his journey he rejects all his responsibilities. Toad is also madly obsessed with cars, caravans and boats. His attraction to these material objects causes him to do foolish things which lead him into a lot of trouble. Toad is sent to jail after he steals a motor-car and crashes it. While Toad is not present in society the stoats and weasels, "the Wild-Wooders", who resemble the rebellious aspect of society, decide to overtake Toad Hall because they believe that Toad would never return. However Toad, being Toad, manages to escape from jail and make his way home. When toad eventually returns, he finds that society had changed because the Stoats and Weasels had taken over. The novel demonstrates and lets as see what will happen to society if those at the top of the hierarchy do not recognise their responsibilities.
As well as this the novel is also about journey. It is about a physical journey and the inner, spiritual journey of each individual character. Various characters in the novel feel the need to go on a journey, the main characters that demonstrate these feelings are Toad and Mole. The author also looks at the characters different responses to the idea of journey....
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