Wind in the Willows

hannibal at hannibal at
Mon Jul 7 01:57:57 EDT 2003

> But it does matter. You seem to be arguing that the separation between the
> main characters and the Stoats and Weasels is primarily one of class,
> whereas I believe that the Stoats and Weasels are at best toughs and at
> worst, well, criminal gangs of the 19th-century sort.

Yes and no. What I've been arguing (in a general way) is that class, a sensitivity to class relations, and a particular view of what those relations ought ideally to be, are all relevant to WitW, and that to say so isn't to foist ideas onto a text unable to bear the weight of grown-up ideas. This comes up in all sorts of ways, not just with the stoats and weasels (e.g. in the more oblique class distinctions between Mole, Ratty and Badger, for example). Specifically with regard to the Stoats and Weasels there are two things I'd say. First, I do suspect that their representation is partly informed by the contemporary fear of anarchism and other kinds of militancy, the toppling of the status quo, etc., and that their occupation of Toad Hall is a tip-off to that anxiety. But this is putting my toe into allegorical waters and I hesitate to do that lest said toe gets nipped by a small fish <waves to Minnow>. What's more important to me is to show that class difference is one of the reasons the Stoats/Weasels' criminality (the reality of which I wouldn't deny) seems to Matter, where the criminality of Toad and his friends does not. I may not have succeeded, but that was my aim, and you'll be pleased to know that I at least convinced myself!

> However, bullying, self-indulgence, pomposity, and inability to control
> one's impulses are all significantly kid things, whereas class
> distinctions are, well, things that are secondary to kids' behavior. 

I'd partly agree with the second bit (though I'd like to think class distinctions are secondary to some adults' behaviour as well!) but I'm sorry - as far as I can see bullying and the rest are just as rife amongst adults. Sometimes (but by no means always) they are a bit subtler about it, that's all. (I'd suspect from her books that this is DWJ's view too, obDWJ.)

> Of course, that leads into my personal theory that the upper middle class
> and upper class culture of Victorian and Edwardian life encouraged men
> never to grow up in a lot of ways. :)

Yes indeed. A bit like the way pampered cats and dogs continue to exhibit infantile behaviour into adulthood, or so I'm told.


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