Wind in the Willows

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Sun Jul 13 05:38:20 EDT 2003


Charlie wrote:

(and I mislaid this reply in the wrong mailbox so I've been a long time
answering; sorry.)

>To be fair I think I may have mentioned squatting too. But when I said
>anarchists I was thinking of the type who caused so much disquiet in the
>early 1900's (c.f. for example The Man Who Was Thursday), rather than their
>more recent incarnations.

I think they were mistrusted and feared by more than one small sector of
society; their intended levelling of class involved some things we'd now
call terrorism, and their victims were as likely to be poor as rich.  Bombs
don't discriminate ("Remember, once you have taken out his pin, Mr. Hand
Grenade is no longer your friend.").

>Perhaps we could put *Vanity Fair* up against *Les Miserables* for this
>purpose? There's got to be some compensation for having wasted a perfectly
>good summer reading the latter...

Hey, take comfort: at least the music in the book didn't make you spend an
evening on a game of "spot the quote".  :-)

I think your point is good, though perhaps not the point you meant to make.
WitW and VF set out to entertain, I think, whereas ideologically-based
texts set out to instruct (like, they hold your face down in a pot of
message and force-feed you till you're sick of it) and are a chore rather
than a pleasure.

I have a feeling that at some point I did read a stoat-oriented fable --
and I have a feeling there is also a feminist one -- purporting to have
something to do with WitW.  Since all I can recall of the experience is a
vague sense that the author couldn't write a straight sentence in
grammatical English to save his or her life, I conclude that I may not have
found it terribly interesting.

>If we can agree that the narrative does incline us (and, I would
>further argue, it inclines us along lines determined partly by beliefs,
>images and anxieties to do with class) I'm happy to leave the dispensation
>of sylvan justice to the great god Pan.

I think I can agree that it is possible that given a predisposition to a
particular mindset, the narrative may reinforce pre-existent views about
order and so forth (or about people being preoccupiedwith/informed by
such).  I'd go no further.  I don't see your class-bias as being the main
factor, because I am inclined to think that the Toad being represented as
he is knocks it on the head.  He's sufficiently dislikeable for me to think
it impossible to see the "upper class" as representing an unambiguous Good
Thing in this text.

>> And very dull you would be, too, so I am glad it's going to fade like the
>> dew on the mountain shortly.  :-)
>Not like soppy mountain dew, Minnow! The mantle-casting image I had in mind
>was much more heroic - Odysseus amongst the suitors, perhaps (thanks to
>KG's last chapter for that idea). I was only pitched into this
>uncharacteristic role, if you remember, by a wish to defend children's lit
>against the notion that it has no business with Serious Ideas.

Ah.  I'd forgotten that you were thus compelled.  OK, you shall have your
burning golden bow that only you can bend!  (But the mountain dew I had in
mind is of an improbably high proof-rating and not soppy at all...)

Fine then: let's postulate that children's lit (and let's in the name of
any goddling or goddity of your choice *not* get into the "what is
children's lit anyway?" discussion!) can have Serious Ideas in it.  I'd say
if it doesn't it is probably not children's lit but children's pap, in
fact.  I'm just not convinced that the Class War wossit is the Serious Idea
*in* WitW.  It may be a Serious Idea that can be *read into* WitW, but that
is a whole 'nother kettle of (ahem) fish.

The whole text is grossly speciesist anyway: not a single piscean is
represented.  Pah!  I could probably make a case for it having been an
example of unconscious racialism on KG's part, if I set my mind to it; and
the lack of positive female role-models makes it a thoroughly objectionable
anti-female work, indicating the state of KG's mind regarding women, and
relating heavily to the fact of his desertion by his mother at a formative
age (wicked woman died at him, didn't she, or something?) and the
unsatisfactory nature of his marriage, and so on and forth.  None of which
he put in consciously, presumably, but when once we start on assuming
attitudes to be integral, we can play any number of such fine games.

But they are often dull, and generally not susceptible of resolution, and
on the whole probably a waste of pixels.

>> It actually makes me quite cross that the Old Vicarage is owned by Archer,
>> but I expect he (or his fragrant wife) is looking after it well, so I
>> ought not to find their ownership of it distasteful.  Pure unreason and
>> prejudice, and I know it.
>Though I can just see him saying: 'Mary, that church clock has been standing
>at ten to three for an awfully long time now - let's pay to get it fixed!'

Aaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrgggggggggggghhhhhh!!!!  Wash your ears out with soap and
water!

Minnow


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