Gender roles in the Wind in the Willows Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: May 1st, 2019

The ‘Wind in the Willows’ is a novel that was published by Kenneth Grahame in 1908. This novel arouses magic and adventure feelings as well as feelings of reflection. Information in this book widens the people’s understanding of the world they are living in.

They are also able to comprehend the complicated interactions found between people. The book has information on social classes and the reasons why it is necessary to have friendship in the society (Lerer 60). Moreover, the author says that if pride is allowed in any society, then friendship can be completely destroyed.

Kenneth Graham did not use human characters in his novel; instead he used animals like a toad, rat and a mole. He did so because he wanted to avoid sex problems. He suggested that his novel did not have any problem since it did not have any sex clash. In addition to that, he said that his aim was to avoid sex as well as gender issues in his novel.

However, to some extent, he did not make it in avoiding sex issues since the text debatably has misogynistic implications. For instance, in the case where both the mole and the rat make comments to the toad that are full of women critics. The toad is criticized by the rat for being ‘flung into the water- by a woman too’ (Grahame 111).

A suggestion is also made by the mole to the toad indicating that locking himself in the bedroom is better than spending time in the hospital ‘being ordered about by female nurses’ (Grahame, 112). Besides, in a conversation between the toad and Barge woman some names such as little hussies or idle trollops are used represent women since they are not recognized.

This shows that Grahame’s claim on the text having no problems was wrong. Probably, he was ignorant of the women-hatred implications in his novel or he wrote from the viewpoint of ‘a male who finds women inconsequential’ (Marshall 58).

‘The putative maleness of all the animal characters nullified by their singularity and by the lack of female characters, and so the four main characters are, in effect, genderless or androgynous’ (Peter, Hunt 104). They argue that females must be included to bring out the character of ‘maleness’. In his book, Graham sidelined females because he fitted their traditional caring functions to the male characters.

He also used the characters to show how women are weak and the way they are neglected in some societies. In the novel, women do not have their rights and follow what they are told. This is shown by the mole who follows what he is told by the toad without having a second thought. The rat is also weak and full of frustrations as well as worries. He is never excited like the toad who belongs to a higher class since he is a male.

According to Marshal, Graham’s aim was to attach and associate children with animals. Despite trying to stay away from sex clash in his novel, traits of female hatred are clearly seen. From her analysis on feminism, Marshall calls for a better way of discussing gender. She wonders how Grahame’s novel was free from gender clash and thought of how innocent the novel could be (Marshal 65).

Walsh on the other hand criticizes Graham’s novel because he claimed that it lacked gender clash. She says that the novel discriminates women through misogynistic implications. He continues to argue that if Graham considered gender balance, then he could have included some females in the novel and make them occupy some of the higher positions. He also used males to represent female characters (Walsh 163).

Lerer Seth in her journal of Aesthetic education says that in the ‘wind in the willows’, friendship, temptation, perseverance as well as self understanding shape the qualities of the characters. She argues that the qualities depend on the style and the unique characters that are found in the individual. The whole progression and elements such as drama and emotion are described by the style.

For instance from the novel, style rules every creature like the mole which is seen to be very quit while the toad is manic. Style also determines the narrative’s progress in the whole book. In Lerer’s article, domestic aesthetic in the novel is discussed.

She continues to insist that all the characteristics in the novel symbolize a clear viewpoint on childhood innocence. In Lerer’s opinion on Graham’s work ‘male dominance can be outlined through individual characters and their unique characters displayed’ (Lerer 61)

In the novel, Graham reminds people that there were times when working classes were separated from the elites and everybody knew his or her place in the society depending on the social classes. Toad belongs to the upper class and owns the land.

He is also above the law and feels that no punishment should be given to him. He is also a thief and fights the police after being caught stealing. This is because he is a man thus feeling more superior that the weaker sex, that is, the females.

The novel shapes the views of the readers, especially the children, by getting the meaning of what the author has written. It shows that the non human characters were all males thus showing gender imbalance. The author could have included female characters because children especially girls enjoy reading such novels since they are able to get female role models.

Many of the common story books for children, apart from this novel, represent gender imbalances thus making the female child feel degraded. For instance in the ‘Wind in the Willows’ novel all the characters that were used by Grahame were all males. In some novels there are female characters but they do not take any active role.

The novel has a lot of exaggeration among the characters so that the reader’s imagination can be stimulated. The reader tries to imagine the various facial expressions, personalities as well as different body languages. Exaggeration enables the reader to know the character’s nature through imagination.

The reader can involve effectively with the characters portrayed by the animals since they are traits of human beings and be able to associate them with his or her life. For instance, those people who are rich become self-centered and they are associated with the toad in the novel (Hunt, Peter 110).

The novel also portrays some of the attitudes and behaviors that are found in humans. It represents the communities where only men are recognized and women seen as inferior characters. Though written mainly for the children, many adults have liked reading it. Fantasy, as an element has been created since the children read about animals that talk and do tasks meant for human beings.

The novel has been one of the best children’s stories because it uses personification to deliver the qualities of humans found in these animals. Toad seems to have a lot of energy and that is why he is full of excitement. He is also a member of the leisure class thus showing how a man can easily belong to the upper class in the society unlike a woman.

Throughout the novel, female characters are not found anywhere bringing out some beliefs that were found in many societies; that women are not supposed to enjoy the liberty and independence found in men. Gender stereotype brings out a contrast of the behaviors seen the toad. This is because the toad has a lot of freedom and at the same time he is very careless. He has also more social power than the others.

The rat represents women in some of the communities because he does not support change or anything promoting it and becomes comfortable in the world that he is living in which is very little. The same case applies where females are seen as a weaker sex because they do not fight for change and feel happy the way they are.

The mole always long for the journey but seems comfortable at home due to security. He shows weakness because he cannot be able to stand up firmly and say what he wants. “Mole is going to stick to me and do as I do, aren’t you, mole?” (Grahame 19). The same case applies to women since they can not be able to fight for their rights fully.

A physical journey has been proposed for these three characters and the reader is able to imagine it as he reads the story. Toad sees the journey as a path to enjoyment, exploration and change. Mole is not decided because he has security at home and at the same time would like to enjoy the adventure.

Rat is not ready for any change since he is weak and his voice can not be heard by anybody. This clearly shows the differences that existed between men and women especially during the early times. Women did not recognize their rights and suffered a lot in the society because they were considered as weak and uneducated.

Although Graham fails to recognize women in his novel, he clearly demonstrates how people respond differently to a journey’s idea since the novel is related a journey’s concept. The novel can also be interpreted well by children who also enjoy reading it. Its ideas are simple, language is colorful and the dialogues are interesting.

Work Cited

Grahame, Kenneth. The Wind in The Willows. New York: Free Press, 1960. Print.

Hunt, Peter.“The Wind in the Willows” A Fractured Arcadia, New York, Toronto: Macmillan, 1994. Print.

Lerer, Seth. Style and the Mole: Domestic Aesthetics in the Wind in the Willows. Aesthetic Education 43.2 (2009): 51-63.

Marshall, Cynthia. Bodies and Pleasures in the Wind in the Willows. Annual of The Modern Language Association Division on Children’s Literature and The Children’s Literature Association, 22 (1994): 58-69.

Walsh, Claire. Gender Trouble in Arcadia Or a World of Multi gendered Possibility? Intersubjectivity and Gender in the Wind in the Willows. Explorations into Children’s Literature ,16.2 (2006): 162-7.

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