illustrated portraits of Toad, Mole, Rat, and Badger set against a woodland scene

The Wind in the Willows

by Kenneth Grahame

Start Free Trial

Editor's Choice

Why is The Wind in the Willows appealing to boys?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Another obvious reason why boys might find The Wind in the Willows appealing is because it has exclusively male characters. The duo of Mole and Rat are two masculine archetypes: one being the shy, intellectual type, the other a raucous adventurer. As a result, young male readers might find they relate to one or both of these characters.

It is no secret that children often seek out entertainment that contains characters in which they can see themselves. The reason for this, especially at an impressionable age, is because of our desire to learn gendered expectations of the society in which we live. The development of the self is often tied to gender, so it comes as no surprise that male readers would want to experience a story with male protagonists. The inverse tends to also be true; the dearth of female protagonists in respected, successful entertainment has been a recent topic of debate.

The other reason I think male readers would enjoy this text is because of its lighthearted plotlines. Within Grahame's various tales of the friends' adventures, there are common themes of adventure, triumph, and goodness. The emphasis on bonding with one's friends through risky missions that always turn out well in the end is likely appealing to boys, since their relationship building is often centered around experiential bonding.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One reason why The Wind in the Willows has an appeal to boys would be through its spirit of adventure.  Mole breaks free from his domesticated realm and enters a world where there is activity and energy.  Such ideas can be seen in the exposition of the work: “Something up above was calling him imperiously.”  He acts upon this, reflecting a spirit of activity and energy within him.  This appeals to boys in that it reveals a sense of wonderment regarding what might be.  For boys who embrace the idea of adventure, of seeing what can be from what is, this is one area where there is a specific appeal.  

I think that another realm in which there is appeal for boys would be in how friendship is associated with hijinks and a sense of experience.  Rat is extroverted, complementing Mole's sense of introversion.  Friendship is forged even though there is opposition.  Boys would find this appealing, as Rat takes Mole on adventures where mischief can present itself.  

Rat also possesses a self-reflective quality where he recognizes that his perception is fundamentally different from what he would want others to see and notice: “Do you suppose it is any pleasure for me . . . to hear animals saying . . . that I’m the chap that keeps company with jailbirds?”  I could see boys connecting with the idea that the way we perceive others might be fundamentally different from how we see ourselves.  For boys who are seen in "one way," there might be a desire to be seen in another, something that boys might address when they are in the company of friends.  This idea of humility in the face of self-understanding and awareness might be a quality that boys can appreciate.

In the end, all of these qualities can be understood by girls as well. However, there might be some intrinsic connection that boys can experience in Greene's work, as it addresses realities that boys often appreciate.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial