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The novel The Wind written in 1925 by Dorothy Scarborough is a part of the fiction that explores the mysterious side of one’s mind. The author focuses on the thoughts of the protagonist, Letty Mason, and shows the world through her eyes. The novel is filled with descriptions of nature and elements of folklore. This paper aims to present and review the central themes of the book The Wind.
The book follows the life of Letty Mason, a young woman that has to travel from Virginia to Texas after the death of her mother. She needs to go to her cousin, Beverly, who lives on a ranch near Sweetwater. It is necessary to mention that the novel takes place during the 1880s, a time when Texas faced a severe drought. On her way to Sweetwater, Letty meets Wirt Roddy, a man that tells her to leave Sweetwater because “this country’s not like what you’ve been used to” (Scarborough 19).
He explains that the weather in these lands and especially the wind can drive women to madness. Letty remembers his words and recalls them often during the course of the book. Later, two men are introduced to the protagonist, Lige and Sourdough. These men live near Beverly, and both are interested in Letty. Furthermore, Letty finally meets her cousin, his wife, Cora, and their kids. While Beverly is happy to see his sister, Cora is apprehensive of their new family member.
Letty struggles with her new way of living. Her current occupation differs significantly from her previous life in Virginia. Everything is unusual to her, including the weather, the people, and their beliefs. The return of Wirt Roddy further discombobulates Letty as he confesses his love for her. However, his intentions are not as pure as he is already married. Eventually, Letty agrees to marry Lige and to live with him. However, Wirt Roddy tries to talk to her once again in hopes to take her back to his house. Letty is agitated because she is not taken seriously by the man. She is also unnerved by the wind that slowly takes over her mind. In the end, she shoots Wirt Roddy during a fight and runs into the windstorm.
The climate and the time period are chosen by the author for a reason, as she explains that at the beginning of the book. According to the author, the weather during the 1880s was harsher than it is now (Scarborough 2). Human progress affected the nature as houses, farms, and fences created many obstacles for the wind to roam freely. Thus, the time period of the novel could cause the incidents that are described in the text, while the current weather is not as cruel. The description of nature in this book is essential to the plot. Scarborough gives many details while exploring the landscape of Texas and Virginia. Virginia is described with the use of various epithets and adjectives.
The protagonist’s old home is portrayed as a place of exquisite beauty. Texas, on the other hand, is shown as a wasteland. Here, there are no rustling trees, blooming flowers, or singing birds. The author uses repetition to enhance the feeling of monotony, writing “sand, sand, sand” (Scarborough 52). Thus, such a portrayal is used to highlight the differences between the two states and explain the anxiety of the main character.
One of the central themes that are discussed in the text is madness that can overcome one’s thoughts. Letty is a young woman that is not prepared to live in the harsh environment of her new home. Here, the wind is only a part of the problem, as the living conditions further pressure her into existing according to the new rules and norms. The audience can see the differences that surround the life of Letty and the lives of ranchers from Sweetwater. The wind gains traits of a man as it embodies Letty’s issues because she does not know where to direct her concerns.
Furthermore, the way people speak to Letty is also interesting. It is clear that nobody takes her words seriously and she is often left without a choice. For instance, in a scene where both Lige and Sourdough propose to Letty, she initially believes that the men are joking.
After discovering that they are serious, she declines their offers and says that she does not want to marry anyone at the moment. The men do not treat that as a real statement as disregard her desire not to marry as Sourdough says to her “excuse me, but you do — only you just don’t know it yet” (Scarborough 149). Furthermore, they continue to discuss a possible person that she would like, making this important decision for her. Other characters repeat this process as well by disregarding Letty’s words and actions.
Here, Scarborough explores the place of women in a male-dominated society and their freedom of choice. Most characters that Letty encounters through the novel try to enforce their wants and needs on her. Wirt Roddy does not believe Letty when she threatens him with a gun, which only exacerbates her frustration and leads to her killing him. Lige and Sourdough disregard Letty’s desire not to marry and believe that she does not know what she truly wants.
The author explores the idea that other people do not see the main character as an equal, treating her as a beautiful but mindless attraction instead. These actions contribute to Letty feeling isolated and misunderstood, and it leads to her being further consumed by her dialogue with the wind. She does not have anyone to speak to, so she turns to her own thoughts which are plagued by the wind.
Letty Mason is a person that is not prepared to deal with the life that she encounters at the ranch. She is soft and naïve. Moreover, her previous life was devoid of hard labor and restrictions, as Letty lived at home, helped her mother, and spend her free time teaching, sewing, and reading. One could argue that she lived a somewhat privileged life in comparison to people of Sweetwater. However, her character may be soft by nature, while most people at the ranch have had a different experience in life.
Thus, the clash between her personality and their demands contributes to her becoming increasingly distraught. In the end, she recalls the words of Wirt Roddy who told her about the wind. She believes that these words planted the idea in her head and made her insane. However, it is possible that even without this thought Letty would not be able to get used to her new life. The wind becomes the subject of her thoughts and directs her frustration in one direction. Therefore, it becomes the center of her attention.
The book The Wind by Scarborough explores the themes of being trapped by circumstances, gender, and occupation. The use of the wind as both an issue and a metaphor for other problems is intriguing. Moreover, the gradually changing thoughts of the protagonist and her focus on the wind show an unusual side of one’s mind.
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Scarborough, Dorothy. The Wind. University of Texas Press, 2011.