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Lecture 7

ENGL208C Lecture 7: Module 7. The Wind in the Willows, Oct 23 2014.docx

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Kathryn Mc Arthur

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ENG 208C
October 23 2014
Module 7 Podcasts
The Wind in the Willows
The Author: Kenneth Graham
Very British book
Transitional works toward modern children’s literature
Published in 1908
Influence of the Author’s Life
Kenneth’s life experiences influenced his writing
Began as a story for his son Alastair, to help calm him after a birthday party
Born in 1859, his mother died when he was 5 years old
His father was unable to cope with Kenneth and his siblings and was an alcoholic
Kenneth’s father sent them to live with their grandmother
She was not a very sympathetic person for a young boy who was very sensitive
Difficult childhood
They were cheap, he desperately wanted to study literature at Oxford but they
wouldn’t send him or help him finance it
He was apprenticed to work in a bank, a job that he dislike and which caused
recurrent health problems for him (and a great sadness)
Began writing in early 1890s
1895 he published his first book: the golden age, his second book was dream
days; both books were about an idealized childhood
oWerent very popular
In 1899, he married, but had an unhappy marriage
Cure for his illness was to be sent to the seaside
Alistair was born in 1900
Began to tell Alastair the stories of toad after his fourth birthday. The stories of
mole came later
Alistair was a sickly child, and was almost completely blind
Mole comes to be the real hero of the story, his character is based on Alastair
The World of the Wind in the Willows
The book is very British in many ways because it centers around the animals of
the English hedgerow, animals we do not normally think of when considering
childrens literature
No skunks in Britain
Celebration of the common animals
In Britain they think of animals differently than we do
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Genesis of the Wind in the Willows
The animals are all kindly and genteel, not true to their animal nature
The world of the wind in the willows parallels the human world; “Englishmen in
furry zippered jumpsuits”
Toad is the irresponsible aristocracy
oGets his home back because he is an aristocrat
oHe doesn’t actually deserve the loyalty of all the animals
Badger: he’s been the family retainer for generations
Rat: a poet who gets to hang out with the aristocracy
Mole: he is a lower middle class working guy
oHis home isn’t very nice
Three major places;
oThe wide world
oThe wild wood (possible essay topic: what does the wild wood represent)
Easy vs. Hard to Read
The book might be easy to read because
oGrahame is an excellent writer with fabulous prose
oNot written in dialect and presents a world familiar to us
oThe characters speak in proper English
Book may be difficult because
oIt is a mixture of styles with dense prose in some sections and lighter prose
in others
oGrahame plays with the idea of writing by trying on different voices and
styles within the same book, from the densely lyrical and poetic to the
mock heroic in the toad adventures
oSo many layers and literary voices
Toad adventures Chapters 2, 6, 8, 10-12 (Toad-iad)
oWritten to entertain his son
oTries on the voice of the mock epic
oTrue epic is huge in scope and elevated in language, like the Odyssey and
the Iliad, and usually follows a larger than life hero (epic as huge)
oThe mock epic takes the epic conventions and uses them in a satirical or
funny way
o12 chapters: epics normally have 12 books
Mole story: chapters 1, 3-5, 7, and 9 (the Mole-iad)
oIts mole who becomes a hero in the end, restoring toad to toad hall
oThe mole and toad story come together
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