The Wind in the Willows: A Fragmented Arcadia

Overview

Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows (1908) is that rare book that sits on the line between children's and adult literature. Allusive and multilayered, Willows is not merely a book for two audiences, however. The reader can turn to it over and over again: as a child, as an adult, and as an informed and curious student of literature eager to examine the interactions among the book's structure, narrative, and meaning. In The Wind in the Willows: A Fragmented Arcadia, author Peter Hunt examines the masterpiece ...
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Overview

Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows (1908) is that rare book that sits on the line between children's and adult literature. Allusive and multilayered, Willows is not merely a book for two audiences, however. The reader can turn to it over and over again: as a child, as an adult, and as an informed and curious student of literature eager to examine the interactions among the book's structure, narrative, and meaning. In The Wind in the Willows: A Fragmented Arcadia, author Peter Hunt examines the masterpiece from numerous angles. Placing the book within its literary and historical context, Hunt first examines the England in which Grahame lived and wrote. From liberal socialism to the burgeoning railroads to the suffragette movement, every facet of English life was changing, and so, too, was children's literature. And in this context of a swiftly changing society, as well as changing viewpoints toward literary genres, Grahame's new book was met with a flock of confused reviewers. From Hunt's brief study of the critical reception of Willows, we can see from the outset that critics were unclear for whom the book was intended. In his reading of Willows, Hunt uncovers the complexity of the work. The characters function differently from chapter to chapter; the symbolism means different things at different times, and basic structure bounces from one of closure to open-ended adult narrative. Even the anthropomorphism seems adjustable, both in its application in the story and in our interpretation of its meaning. In its most basic guise, Willows is composed of two narratives: Mole's and Toad's. And the contrast between these two stories could not be more apparent: Mole's journey is peaceful, local, and reflective, while the story of Toad is outgoing and nearly violent. Mole's introspective story is best suited for adult comprehension, while Toad's farcical tale plays well with children. Hunt is ever mindful of the enduring question: Is Willows a children's book, an
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Hunt (U. of Wales, Cardiff, UK) examines Kenneth Grahame's multilayered classic from numerous angles, placing the book within its literary and historical context of a society in transition. Hunt uncovers the complexity of the book's changeable symbolism, and contrasts the narratives of the two main characters, Mole and Toad. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805788167
  • Publisher: Cengage Gale
  • Publication date: 6/28/1994
  • Series: Twayne's Masterwork Studies Series , #14
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 125
  • Sales rank: 1,430,426
  • Product dimensions: 5.77 (w) x 8.82 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Note on the References and Acknowledgments
Chronology: Kenneth Grahame's Life and Works
1 Historical Context 3
2 The Importance of the Work 9
3 The Critical Reception 13
4 Main Streams and Backwaters: Narrative and Structure 25
The Shapes of the Narrative 25
Shaping the Book 30
From the River Bank to Dulce Domum 33
"The World Has Held Great Heroes" 40
Branching Streams: Other Readings of the Narrative 45
5 Natural History: Characters, Animals, and Personal Symbolism 48
The Meaning of the Animals 48
The Famous Mr. Mole 54
The Gallant Water Rat 58
The Kindly Badger 65
The Great Mr. Toad! 68
6 Undercurrents and Whirlpools: Political and Universal Themes 75
"No Problems" 75
The Threat on the Horizon 78
"Clean of the Clash of Sex" 84
The River Bank and the Open Road 89
Food and Kitchens 93
7 The Wind in the Reeds - The Eddies of Style 97
The Language of Contrasts 97
The Language of Evasion 102
The Language of Literature 109
8 "A Book for Youth" 111
9 Approaches to Teaching 119
References 125
Bibliography 133
Index 139
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