The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Wind in the Willows book cover
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At a Glance

  • Mole, an introverted creature who decides to venture out one day and see some of the world. He befriends Rat, Badger, and Toad on his adventures.
  • Rat, Mole's best friend, who invites him to stay at his house as a guest.
  • Badger, a reclusive creature who lives people but hates society. He confronts Toad about his reckless behavior.
  • Toad, a wealthy playboy who is arrested and sentenced to twenty years in prison after stealing a car and being a menace to society.
  • Sea Rat, an adventurer who tells Mole and Rat stories about the wide world.
  • Otter, who joins Mole and Rat on their picnic.

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Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Mole

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

Water Rat, an extrovert. He becomes Mole’s friend and shows him the world of stream and forest.

Toad

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

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

Otter, who joins Mole and Water Rat on their first picnic.

Sea-Farer

Sea-Farer, a seagoing rat who visits Water Rat and tries to tempt him into traveling about the Wide World.

Themes and Characters

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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 automobile. Yet Ratty also is a dreamer; when he listens to the birds preparing for their winter migration, he longs for a more adventurous life. And when the Sea Rat wanders down the lane and stops to tell him of his life on the open sea, Ratty begins to consider his life beside the River a boring one. Fortunately, Mole takes him inside and, encouraging him to write more poetry, prevents him from running away to seek a life of adventure on the sea.

Toad, unlike the other animals, is a person of whims, bouncing from enthusiasm to enthusiasm as the mood strikes him. We first learn of his impetuous nature when Rat shows Mole the boathouse crammed with elegant boats for which Toad has had fleeting enthusiasms. The first sign that Toad is too impulsive and imprudent comes when he...

(The entire section is 3,620 words.)