Who Has Seen The Wind by W.O. Mitchell


Who Has Seen The Wind by W.O. Mitchell

McClelland & Stewart Inc., Toronto, 1998

I own this one.

I learned about this classic Canadian novel that by reading other Canadian novels.

First published in 1947, this is a story about a boy growing up in a small town on the Saskatchewan prairie during the 1930’s.

Brian O’Connal lives on the edge of the prairie with his Mother, Father, Grandmother and younger brother.  He is surrounded by odd characters, his Uncle Sean, Old Ben and Saint Sammy who lives in a piano crate.

When we first meet Brian he is angry over all the attention his sick baby brother is getting. His mother and father ignore him, his Grandmother shoos him out of the house.  Brian’s thoughts and feelings, expressed in internal dialogue,  are so like a four-year old child’s.  This is one of Mitchell’s gifts.  He had an ability to let us into his characters thoughts.

As Brian grows up, sharing the town with his friends and his dog Jappy, we meet many of the people who live around him. He learns about life, faith and human failings from his experiences and the adults he interacts with.  He is always drawn to the Prairie and to a wild boy who lives there.

And all about him was the wind now, a pervasive sighing trough great emptiness, as though the prairie itself was breathing in long gusting breaths, unhampered by the buildings of town, warm and living against his face and in his hair.  From page 13.

But it is not just Brian that we follow in this novel.  We follow other characters, particularly the teachers and principle of the local school.  Mitchell give us this small community with all its strengths and weaknesses.  Small town prejudice and hypocrisy, the class system of  the ” right” and “wrong” side of the tracks, the devastation of the dust bowl years.  All placed in a landscape that holds it all together as if in a golden bowl.

W.O. Michell paints this place with words.  The language is pure and lyrical.  I kept seeing each scene as if I were standing in the middle of  the prairie.  It is magnificent, every color, every sound, every scent.  I can understand why Canadians love this novel, how it has become a classic.  It is a part of that vast and beautiful country.

The following poem by Christina Rossetti inspired the title of this book.  Several boys actually quote a few lines in the text.

Who Has Seen the Wind?

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.
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2 Comments

Filed under CanadianBookChallenge4, Historical Fiction, Review, TBR

2 responses to “Who Has Seen The Wind by W.O. Mitchell

  1. This is one of my favourite Canlit novels, but I’ve never read the illustrated edition you have there; I’ll have to seek that one out for a re-read. Don’t you love being surprised to find that a classic, one which you haven’t read yet, really is “all that”? I felt that way about Sinclair Ross’ As For Me and My House too.

  2. Kiah Taylor

    I had to read, Who Has Seen The Wind, by W.O. Mitchell for my grade 11 English. This book is an amazing story, of finding out the meaning of life and death, as well as the cycle of life and death. The speech, and sentence structure was different, maybe I found it different because I am not used to it. I liked the arrange of characters this book had to offer. And would recommend it to anyone, who wanted a simple book about a boy’s life on the Saskatchewan prairie. Even if I hadn’t had to read this book for English 11, I most likely would have read it anyway.

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