The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame is a classic children's book and is able to continually inspire children with its abundance of adventures and Toad's escapades. Adults and older children who critically evaluate the novel are able to consider and reconsider their choices and the consequences of those choices, but at the same time remain removed from the story; it is about animals, after all.
A moral is a lesson to be learnt by the reader from the story. Toad especially has a lot to learn as he uses his unlimited wealth to chase his dreams. His decisions are often are ill-considered and lead to his arrest and potential long-term imprisonment. However, his friends consistently guide him and eventually persuade him to change his ways. In short, they never give up on him—a valuable moral for any reader.
By the end of the novel, the reader learns the value of forgiveness and patience as the four friends make mistakes and try to learn from them (although Toad tests anyone's patience). Rat's life is uncomplicated, and he is able to accept things at face value, never doubting his friends' sincerity: “That’s all right, bless you!”
The novel actually developed from a series of letters that Grahame wrote to his son, and perhaps the escapism that the novel provides explains Grahame's own attempts to distract himself from the harsh reality of his complicated relationship with his son. Therefore, the reader is able to reflect on the characters' actions, and yet not feel judged if he or she sees likenesses to his or her own circumstances. Does the reader relate to Toad, Mole or Rat? Would the reader provide advice on how certain problems could have been handled differently?
As it is Grahame's escape from his own reality that inspired the shenanigans of the characters, so the moral of the story is essentially to try to do your best at all times, forgive others, and make the world a better place. Even those who take a long time to recognize their mistakes can take solace in the fact that it is never too late.