Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Mole, an introvert. He is introduced to the world about him by Water Rat, who takes him on various excursions and becomes his friend. Mole learns to swim, to row, and to find the meaning of the wind in the willows. He even learns to see Him who brings Life and Death to all creatures.
Water Rat, an extrovert. He becomes Mole’s friend and shows him the world of stream and forest.
Toad, a wealthy playboy. He lives at Toad Hall, the most magnificent residence in animal land. He becomes addicted to every fad. He takes Mole and Water Rat on a short-lived trip in a gypsy caravan and then becomes an automobile owner, driving the fastest and gaudiest of cars. He gets into and out of all sorts of scrapes.
Badger, a recluse who lives in the Wild Wood. No one dares bother him. He likes People but hates Society. Even so, he helps other animals, including Toad. When Toad Hall is taken over by the stoats and weasels, he helps the other animals drive out the intruders.
Otter, who joins Mole and Water Rat on their first picnic.
Sea-Farer, a seagoing rat who visits Water Rat and tries to tempt him into traveling about the Wide World.
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Themes and Characters
Although all of the main characters in The Wind in the Willows are animals, the reader soon forgets that Mole, Toad, Ratty, and Badger are animals and becomes involved in their adventures and mishaps as though they were human characters. Although some actual humans briefly appear in the story, they are nameless and generally serve as devices to move the story along, as in the case of the gypsy who feeds Toad breakfast and buys his stolen horse.
Mole is the focal character of the story; he ties all of the other characters together. Overcome by a severe attack of spring fever, Mole leaves his snug home and, encountering Ratty, moves into his riverbank burrow. Mole, unaware of the wide world around him, gradually learns what it is like to live above the ground, go boating, and have adventures with new friends. Although he is reserved, when a friend needs help, Mole will stand beside him, as he does when the weasels, ferrets, and stoats take over Toad Hall.
Ratty is in harmony with his surroundings, knows how to get along without getting into trouble, and is wise to the ways of the river, the fields, and, most importantly, the Wild Wood. In general he is content with his life and takes pleasure in the simple things—good food, his rowboat, and the company of friends. When someone is in trouble, he helps, as when Otter's young pup, Portly, gets lost, or when Mole loses his way in the Wild Wood, or when Toad gets in a scrape with his...
(The entire section is 936 words.)
Badger, sometimes referred to as Mr. Badger, commands great respect as well as fear among the animals. Rat is the first to mention him: “Dear old Badger! Nobody interferes with him. They’d better not.” By the end of the novel, he is especially feared by the Weasels, who quiet their infants by telling them that “if they didn’t hush them and not fret them, the terrible gray Badger would up and get them.” Toad is able to humble himself and apologize for his reckless behavior with automobiles when Badger has him alone in a room. It is only after he is with Rat and Mole again that is able to say “No! . . . I’m not sorry!”
Badger is also considered very wise. He is rarely questioned by Rat and Mole and only occasionally by the arrogant Toad. He is also impartial in his shrewdness. When Toad says “I’ll learn ‘em to steal my house!” in reference to the Stoats and Weasels, Rat corrects him, replacing “learn” with “teach.” However, Badger insists that Toad’s manner of speaking is more appropriate. Later, however, when Mole recounts how he visited the Stoat guards in disguise and exaggerated their coming attack, Rat and Toad both reprimand him for giving away the element of surprise while Badger commends him for his cleverness at putting the animals on edge.
Although he is wise, respected, and feared, he is not above being compassionate and forgiving. He is always willing...
(The entire section is 2467 words.)