W. O. Mitchell Richard Sullivan - Essay

Richard Sullivan

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["Who Has Seen the Wind"] is a piece of brilliantly sustained prose, a very beautiful, keen, perceptive rendering of human beings engaged in the ordinary yet profoundly—almost mysteriously—meaningful drama of every day.

A quiet, loose, free sort of book, this one is devoted primarily to the experience of its central character, the boy Brian O'Connal. From his fourth to his twelfth year Brian searches—quite unselfconsciously, quite naturally—for God, for purpose, for meaning in the absolute….

But there is no fulfillment for him, no end to his search at the book's end. Indeed there, in a full and self-conscious way, his quest is only beginning. Through the passage of these early years the small child's often shocking directness has gradually turned into the boy's more penetrant awareness;… without the malice of Ahab hunting the whale, but with a fairly comparable urgency….

But because it is a loose, quiet, free sort of book, not so much plotted as ingeniously composed, "Who Has Seen the Wind" ranges frequently away from Brian out over the life of the Canadian prairie town which he inhabits….

And quite as real as any of the human characters, quite as directly a part of the whole effect, is the natural background … of Saskatchewan prairie…. [As] memorable as anything in a genuinely and thoroughly well-done book are some of the renderings of grass and storm and sky, and of the delicately symbolical wind that keeps blowing.

Richard Sullivan, "Canadian Boyhood," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1947 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), February 23, 1947, p. 5.