Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The epigraph of The Wind is from Paul Valery: “The world is incessantly threatened by two dangers: order and disorder.” This dichotomy is clearly illustrated by the chaos unintentionally created by the peaceful, passive Montès. He thinks that order can exist simply through the force of his will, that he can ignore time, can arrest it in his photographs. This illusion is burst with the murder of Rose.

Nor is there any order in the natural world. When Montès arrives, “the wind, a virtually continuous tornado of undirected, unreasonable violence, threw itself upon him, assailed him, furiously encompassed him.” Throughout the novel the wind remains “the indefatigable, permanent gale ceaselessly galloping down the diaphanous sky, growing wild, intoxicated with its own rage, its own useless power.” It distorts the appearance of nature, covering green life with a coat of dust. The wind resembles time, moving but making no headway, emphasizing the fragility of the order that man has tried to impose.

Simon is concerned with the fragility—and superficiality—not only of people’s conceptions of order but also of their view of reality, as the narrator’s method of assembling the facts of the story at second, third, or fourth hand illustrates. Another narrator might make a totally different interpretation of Montès’ life. Simon implies that people’s senses and intelligence are inadequate to evaluate events objectively. Delving into the nature of reality, Simon wonders about the role of language, asking whether words describe an event or create it. The mystery, beauty, drama, and complexity of life are the same as those of language. The Wind dramatizes the ambiguousness of memory, the unreliability of evidence, the difficulty of knowing the truth about others and oneself.

Simon’s themes are underscored by his method of writing: cumulative sentences which sometimes stretch for pages, unfinished statements, and parentheses within parentheses. His style, which is strongly reminiscent of the William Faulkner of The Sound and the Fury (1929) and Absalom, Absalom! (1936), illustrates the fragmented reality his characters’ experience. Even the narrator is aware of the difficulty of his task:[N]ow that it’s all over, trying to report, to reconstitute what happened is a little like trying to stick together the scattered, incomplete debris of a broken mirror, clumsily struggling to readjust the pieces, getting only an incoherent, ridiculous, idiotic result.”