Angry Voices on the River Bank: a Reinterpretation of Two Aquatic Classics

By Michael Bender, published May 2015


At least some of the meaning of the maritime for the English has come to them through its portrayal in the various media, such as paintings, poetry and literature. This relationship appears to have been particularly relevant during the late Victorian and Edwardian era, when the need of the population to understand the sea and how to sail it was seen as vital to our continued well-being as a nation. Of the large number of texts published during this period, two have come down to us as aquatic classics – Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat (1889) and Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows (1908). The continued presentation of these texts, in theatre and film adaptations, had decontextualized them, so that they have lost their radical contemporary message. In the case of Three Men in a Boat that the lower middle class, the clerical class, had alternative speech patterns and values that were in conflict with the established class system. In the case of The Wind in the Willows the class system is represented as inherently unstable and there is an ever-present risk of civil strife, both in the country and the city.

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Filed under: Other (Nineteenth C) | Internal Waterways
Subjects include: Art & Music

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