W. O. Mitchell William H. New - Essay

William H. New

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In his two novels, The Kite and Who Has Seen the Wind, W. O. Mitchell makes use of [the transition from childhood to maturity] as a means to consider man's awareness of time and perception of reality during his life's span on earth. The two novels explore these questions, however, from different points of view. Though one is an artistic success while the other falls short of this, part of their interest lies in the extent to which they complement each other…. (p. 45)

Mitchell's first novel, Who Has Seen the Wind, is the success. It is a study of the development involved in a boy's increasing conscious awareness of abstraction, a study of Brian O'Connal's transition from the perfection of sensitive childhood, through conflict, to a balance that is achieved in early maturity. In The Kite, which fails largely because of technical difficulties, Keith Maclean is parallel to Brian in many respects, but the author is concerned less with the growth of a child than with the effect of continuing awareness of time on an old man, Daddy Sherry, and the late awareness of the truth of emotional abstractions that comes to the apparently mature David Lang.

Brian O'Connal's growth begins in perfection. He is a child, complete in his own environment, when Who Has Seen the Wind opens; he meets existence from an awareness of self and by sense perception of the material things around him. For the actual growth to take place, however, this state of harmonious innocence must be disrupted, and it is, by the conflict that is aroused in Brian as he is brought into contact with death…. [Each] of the six death scenes in the novel [demonstrates] … Brian's changing reactions—his growth—and the extent to which he transcends age in developing to maturity. (pp. 45-6)

In introducing characters such as the Young Ben or Saint Sammy, who are in some ways the most vividly drawn of all the people in [Who Has Seen the Wind], Mitchell runs the danger of letting his focus shift from the central...

(The entire section is 849 words.)