How does Mole exhibit his initial immaturity before Rat helps him become a more mature animal?
Though never as egregiously immature as someone like Toad, Mole nevertheless begins the novel as a very 'young' animal. We see this right way, when he barges through the rabbits in the first chapter. He is not kind or considerate, but instead rushes through them with no sense of responsibility. Similarly, Mole refuses to listen to Rat's reasoning, and hence almost drowns himself and later almost gets himself killed in the Wild Wood. For a while, Mole is defined more by childish pride than by humility, though this pattern shifts almost entirely by the end of the novel.
Explain how Toad’s personality causes him to pick up and then quickly discard hobbies.
Toad has a childish personality, one which prizes his immediate gratification over any responsible consideration. Thus, he loses interest in activities that do not keep his attention. Once he sees something that looks more exciting than what he is doing, he focuses all his energy on the new activity. In this way, he is like a spoiled child who discards one toy in complete favor of another. This proclivity also reflects his distaste for hard work; most hobbies require focus, as Rat suggests during their caravan trip. Nevertheless, Toad cares only about the hobby so long as it is entertaining and easy. While these characteristics are harmless at first, they later land him in significant trouble when his capricious nature leads to his arrest.
What is the Terror of the Wild Wood?
On a literal level, the "Terror of the Wild Wood" describes the experience that small animals have while in that wild setting. The shadowed faces, the whistling and pattering, and the dangerous landscape all terrorize Mole because he ventures into the Wild Wood by himself. All the terrifying sights and sounds cause his imagination to run wild, making the experience even worse.
On its larger symbolic level, then, the terror relates to the fear a small child feels when s/he ventures into a realm that s/he is not ready for. Much as Rat warns Mole to stay away from the Wild Wood, parents often warn their children about dangers that should be proactively avoided. Of course, like Mole does, children often wander into those settings anyway, and learn from the terror that their parents are often on point.
In what ways are Badger and Mole alike?
Though Badger initially seems so foreign to Mole, they are actually quite similar. Badger and Mole are both underground animals who prefer to be housed in the earth because it is more solitary and stable. Both have the natural instinct to burrow, which represents their introspective sides. And yet both also share a greater affection for friends than for a specific home. Mole chooses to stay with Rat despite his preferences, since that relationship is most important, and Badger ventures out as soon as realizes Toad (and others) might be in trouble.
Why does Mole want Rat to be impressed with his home?
Though Mole eventually decides to stay with Rat, he shows a great affection for his old home, and wants Rat to enjoy it as well. This desire reflects several aspects of their relationship. Most immediately, it reflects Mole's gratitude; Rat has welcomed Mole into his own home, so Mole wishes to do the same. It also represents Rat's position as Mole's mentor. While Mole realizes that Rat has much to teach him, he also wants Rat to understand that he is an adult himself, capable of having nice things. Finally, it reflects the basic desire to impress our friends, and have them enjoy the objects that represent us.
Explain why Badger's initial lecture was unsuccessful at changing Toad's habits.
At first, Badger's lecture seems to achieve its purpose; Toad leaves the room sobbing and begging for forgiveness. However, these emotions only reflect Toad's easily manipulated nature. Though ostensibly a show of maturity, those crocodile tears are only evidence of his immaturity. In the same way he shifts hobbies on a whim, Toad does whatever gets him attention, ready to change his behavior as soon as the circumstances change. He cries because Badger wants it, but will be ready to drive again at the first opportunity. Finally, there is the suggestion (made by Mole) that Toad's refusal to heed Badger is based in class superiority. Badger does not have the aristocratic background that Toad has, so Toad would see him as inferior. While it might not have been Grahame's intention, it is possible to see such condescension as yet another form of immaturity.
Explain why Pan helped Mole and Rat find Portly.
Pan is one of the gods of nature and animals, so he would be personally invested in Portly's disappearance. The young animal had gotten lost in nature, and hence needed intervention. And yet Pan also helps arguably because Mole and Rat are so attuned to nature themselves. They have chosen to live a life amongst nature, and celebrate its virtues time and again. It is because of this attitude that they can hear Pan's song. It is interesting to consider that another animal (like Toad) who is more connected to civilization might never have heard the song, and hence would not have found Portly.
Why are Sea Rat’s descriptions of the ocean so inspirational to Rat?
In essence, Sea Rat represents the call of adventure away from home. Rat, in the midst of a mid-life crisis of sorts, is feeling restless, tied to his home while others so easily leave theirs behind. While he loves adventure, Rat also feels drawn towards domesticity. Sea Rat, on the other hand, eschews domesticity, finding its stifling. Rat sees in Sea Rat another possibility for his life, so exciting that he almost acts against his natural instincts. All in all, Grahame suggests that we should be careful of momentary excitements that might lead us towards extreme choices we might ultimately regret.
Why is the last chapter of the novel called “The Return of Ulysses”?
This title is an allusion to the epic poem The Odyssey. After being away from home for twenty years, Odysseus/Ulysses (the name varies according to civilization) returns to his kingdom to find his home occupied by people trying to take over. On a literal level, Grahame is making a comparison to Toad's situation with the weasels and stoats. Of course, the comparison is a bit tongue-in-cheek, since it only underlines how non-epic Toad's travels are compared to Odysseus's ancient struggles.
Explain Toad's final change of heart in the novel.
It is difficult to discern exactly what makes Toad grow up at novel's end. Upset by Badger's rebukes, he retreats to his room and delivers his boastful speeches to himself before walking downstairs seemingly more mature. And yet Grahame perhaps did not mean to explain how such personal growth happens, but merely to promise that it does happen sooner or later. Rebukes from our friends and family can only do so much; we must be willing to embrace maturity ourselves. Considering the belief that Grahame used Toad to explore his own son's difficult personality, it is possible that this final beat is merely a type of wishful thinking on the author's part.