The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows Summary and Analysis of Chapters 5 and 6


Chapter 5 - "Dulce Domum"

Mid-December, Mole and Rat are traveling back from one of their many journeys when they come across a human town. They take a shortcut through a human village, and look through windows to see a number of sweet, happy scenes: people sewing, families eating, laughter, children sleeping. They feel even more drawn towards home, so hurry their pace to escape the winter weather more quickly.

Once beyond the village, though, Mole feels a familiar sense creep over him. Listening to his inner voice, he realizes that they are just minutes away from his old home, the one he left behind so long before.

Mole calls out to Rat, who is too far ahead to understand him. Feeling ignored and upset, Mole follows, unwilling to simply desert his friend. However, his feelings eventually overpower him, so that he he sits and cries. Rat finally notices Mole's pain, and walks back to ask about it. After some blubbering, Mole explains that he wants to visit his old home.

Though he initially thinks it a poor idea, Rat realizes what the detour means to Mole, and they wander until they find the home. Inside, Mole is ashamed of his humble dwelling, but Rat praises the home for its charm and efficiency. Some caroling field mice stop by, and Rat is able to scrape together a feast for everyone from Mole's cupboards.

That night, when they go to bed, Mole is happy to spend a night in his old home, but is glad to have a new life elsewhere.

Chapter 6 - "Mr. Toad"

Months later, Rat and Mole are eating breakfast when Badger stops by for an unexpected visit. He announces that the time has come for the friends to intervene in Toad's childish behavior. Rat and Mole agree.

They walk together to Toad Hall, where they see a brand new red motor car in the driveway. Badger lets himself into the house, and brings Toad into a room alone. There, Badger sternly lectures Toad on his behavior; Mole and Rat can hear Toad’s sobs through the walls. In particular, Badger wants Toad to give up on motorcars, which are dangerous, costly, and foolish.

Toad acquiesces to Badger's demands, but he recants as soon as he and Badger leave the room. He announces that he is not sorry for his behavior, and that he will never give up driving automobiles. Faced with no other choice, Badger commands Rat and Mole to lock Toad in his bedroom until his addiction subsides.

At first, Toad resists the treatment. In an effort to recreate driving, he arranges his bedroom furniture into the shape of a vehicle, and pretends to control it. Then, he pretends to wreck, and lies on the floor. His friends are so worried by the extent of his obsession that they guard him around the clock.

After a while, though, Toad seems to recover somewhat. He spends less time pretending to drive, and is visibly more relaxed. Somewhat relieved, Badger and Mole leave Rat alone for one guard shift. Unfortunately, this is just the opportunity Toad has been waiting for. He begins to act deathly ill, and begs Rat to fetch him a doctor and lawyer so he can put his affairs in order. Thinking Toad sincere, Rat leaves his post for a few minutes, and Toad uses a bedsheet rope to climb out of the window to freedom.

Once out of his home prison, Toad runs as far as he can, finally stopping for dinner at an inn. From inside, he hears the sound of a car approaching, and watches as it pulls up at the restaurant. Thinking it safe for him to simply take a look at the vehicle, he sneaks outside and sits in it. However, his addiction is too strong, and he soon enough steals the car and takes it for a joy ride.

Unfortunately, he wrecks the vehicle, and is apprehended. A judge sentences him to twenty years in prison for theft, driving recklessly, and for treating the police rudely. Toad is immediately dragged to jail, and locked away to think about his actions.


Even though the characters enjoy going on journeys and adventures, they almost always experience a longing to return home. The most prominent manifestation of this theme in The Wind in the Willows comes in Chapter 5, when Mole feels the uncontrollable desire to return to his own house. He has been living with Rat for a while at this point, enjoying the carefree life that the river offers. Overall, it has been an adventure compared to the stifling underground life he lived before. Again, Grahame's point is that we are happiest when we accept our natural desire to live a pastoral life.

However, Mole feels an equally powerful desire to revisit the place he called home. The feeling clearly parallels that which opens the novel, suggesting that the desire for home and domesticity is equally powerful to that which draws us out towards nature. Once he feels the urge for home, he cannot control it; it overpowers him. In trying to explain the desire to Rat, he speaks of home as an anchor in his life, something that keeps him grounded because it is his own. We are both natural and domestic creatures, in Grahame's view.

Grahame's interest in domesticity is also clear in Mole's feelings about his house. Having experienced what unfiltered nature has to offer, Mole is ashamed of the hole's tight quarters, and drab atmosphere. However, Rat soon finds a way to embrace the home's domestic qualities, not only brightening it up but also preparing a meal. This is an example of how Rat exercises his mentorship. Rat sees past the hole's superficial quality in favor of recognizing its inherent domestic quality.

And one way in which Rat's overall mentorship proves its effectiveness is that Mole has been changed. While he still feels the urge to revisit his home, he also embraces his new life - of adventure, open air, and nature - as superior. It might not be the only part of his life worth loving, but it is the most important, and he owes this awareness largely to Rat's guidance. The chapter's title - "Dulce Domum" - translates roughly to "home sweet home," underscoring this message.

This same theme of mentorship carries into Chapter 6, this time between Badger and Toad. Grahame's implications of age differences are quite clear in the way Badger exerts authority over the childish Toad. It is a quite different dynamic than that between Mole and Rat, who seem to complement each other. But that distinction lies in the fact that Toad is entirely too young to actually improve his behavior yet. Because Toad is endangering his health as well as his family’s estate, and most of all because Toad has no capacity for self-awareness, Badger must quite forcefully alter Toad's mindset.

Toad’s immaturity needs to be challenged by the oldest and most steadfast animal in the group. Grahame shows us that only Badger has the strength to stand up to Toad’s whims when Rat, the other mentor of the group, fails to keep Toad locked in his bedroom. Toad knows that he can dupe Rat, because Rat is too trusting. That level of trust allows him to be a good mentor to Mole; he trusts that Mole will listen to him after making a mistake, and will consider his failings in order to grow. However, Rat naively believes that Toad is the same way. Rat is not as wise as Badger, who knows better than to trust Toad, and hence relies on lock and key as his tactic. Later, when he muses to himself about his escape, Toad mentions that Rat is not as smart or as educated as he is. Obviously, that is a silly and arrogant assertion, but it does suggest that Toad has a certain knowledge about the world that Rat lacks: some people cannot be trusted at all.

Toad firmly believes in social hierarchies, and he sees himself as being at the top of the pyramid. Because of both his wealth and his self-identified genius, Toad believes himself invincible. This thought, though, is an extremely childish and selfish one. He shows his immaturity in other ways, like when he plays car while locked in his bedroom. Rather than dealing with his obsession and realizing that his friends are trying to help him, Toad resorts to emulating the thrill of driving since he cannot enjoy the real thing. Grahame makes a gentle assertion here: too much money keeps one from realizing the truth of life. Since Toad has always been able to fulfill every whim, he does not know how to deal with disappointment or hard truths.

But moreso than money, Grahame disdains industrialism. In many ways, Toad's problem is less his immaturity and more his obsession with cars. Badger serves as a voice of reason, calling Toad’s obsession with automobiles a “poison” (74). Clearly, Grahame saw cars as a harbinger of destruction to the idyllic country life. They disrupted the peaceful quiet, and were a danger to other travelers on the roads. The real and natural world is what Toad eschews when he steals another person's car, and Grahame makes no secret of his feelings when he locks Toad away for the crime. Toad has not only stolen, but he has also betrayed his world.