Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Another for a needle

Current book: The Wind in the Willows
Pages read: 99-205 (end)

I was right about finishing the book today. It did get a bit more plotty, though not by a whole lot, and it also got significantly more preachy, which was unfortunate. There were still cute illustrations, though, and I found the whole thing fairly pleasant.

Mole and Rat save the lost child of their friend Otter one day by tracking him down in the woods at dawn after having searched for him all night. When they find him, they have a bizarre religious experience where they both see the figure of Pan and acknowledge him as God/Nature. (It's weirdly Judeo-Christian, somehow, even though it's clearly Pan that they find in the woods, complete with pipes and horns and everything. I can't really explain it. I wanted Grahame to be awesome by making a bid for modern paganism, but I'd be lying if I said he was.)

Other than finding the baby otter, and a brief episode in which Rat is struck with wanderlust as a result of the visit of a seafaring rat (And is also subsequently "cured" of his impulse to explore by Mole's reminders of the comforts of home...I'm beginning to feel like Grahame had unfortunate travel experiences early in life or something. I mean, Christ, Ken, people can go on trips now and again; the world won't end.), the rest of the book consists mainly of resolving Toad's personal and legal problems. Toad gets sprung from jail by the kindly jailer's daughter, and after sprinting across the countryside in fugitive recklessness wearing a washerwoman's clothes as a disguise, finally finds Rat, Mole, and Badger again. They admonish him for his idiotic behavior and ungrateful reactions to everyone who's tried to help him (And those are certainly fair assessments, for he is ludicrously foolish, and so stubborn about his own stupidity that it undermines the story by making him into a caricature rather than a character.), but in the end formulate a plan to aid him in regaining his ancestral Toad Hall, currently occupied by a raucous band of stoats and weasels (which seems classist, somehow, since they're described as layabouts who don't wash or work for a living, but maybe I should lighten up on the Marxist analysis, since it's a children's book). They sneak in through a secret passage that leads to the butler's pantry and lay about them with cudgels and sticks, scattering the cowardly Mustelidae with a minimum of effort. Afterward, Toad seems to have learned his lessons of humility and restraint, and throws a large and successful banquet for all the creatures of the wood and river.

My impressions remain much the same as yesterday: it's a bit too moral for my taste, encourages a maintenance of routine, and tends to exaggerate the ridiculous for comical effect, but is still mostly charming and entertaining. It is not one of the 1oo greatest novels of all time. But I enjoyed it, which is a nice change.

In theory, Willa Cather tomorrow, but she's got to make it over to my library first.


  1. Please, Ms. Webster, tell me you had to look up Mustelidae.



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