Who Has Seen The Wind
by W.O. Mitchell In the story of "Who Has Seen The Wind", W.O. Mitchell attempts to explain the meaning of life to young readers. Brian O'Connal, the main character, is a young boy who develops an understanding of birth and death throughout the novel by observing numerous animals. The birth of Forbsie's pigeons and his rabbits help him to gain an understanding of birth. The death of Forbsie's pigeon, Brian's dog, and Brian's father play an important role in helping Brian understand birth, death and the true meaning of life. Brian's first encounter with birth is when he and his friend, Forbsie, discover the hatching of baby pigeons. '"They came out of the eggs.' Forbsie said." (51). Brian has difficulty grasping this fact and asks his father for help. Brian's father unwillingly provides information on this matter which results in a brief but not detailed discussion. From this discussion Brian concludes that the father pigeon places the baby in the egg and the baby pigeons grow while the mother pigeon is laying the egg. When the baby pigeon grows as much as it needs to grow, it hatches out of the egg. This explanation leaves Brian quite confused and uninformed of nature's way to reproduce. At this stage Brian seems to understand that humans and animals reproduce babies the same way. Brian's second encounter with birth is again with Forbsie as the two watch the birth of rabbits. Brian's knowledge of birth is further developed in this section of the novel. He is not too sure about the newborn rabbits at first because they look funny with no hair and there are no eggs. '"Gee Fat,' Brian had said, 'they look funny---they haven't got any hair!"' (160). Brian and Forbsie speculate that the rabbits will soon grow up and have babies then those rabbits will have babies extending to an infinite amount of rabbits. Brian is again puzzled with Forbsie's answers and consequently he goes to his father for help. "'How do rabbits get started?"'(161). Gerald O'Connal explains to Brian that rabbits are similar to plants because the two are started by a planted seed. Rabbits are different from pigeons and Brian's philosophy on birth changes with his growing mind. '"That---oh---that's what the baby rabbit grows from inside the mother rabbit.' Gerald! O'Connal said."(162). Throughout this talk Brian comes to differentiate birth between pigeons and rabbits. Rabbits come from a seed planted by the father in the mother, this not being the same as pigeons. A baby rabbit grows inside the mother until he or she is ready to come out, where as a baby pigeon grows inside an egg until hatching is ready. The two animals are similar but one baby grows in his or her mothers' stomach and the other grows in an egg. Brian's knowledge of birth is clearer in this section because he has grown and matured therefore his mind can grasp the process better. Brian now understands a great deal about birth and how animals grow to be born. Along with developing an understanding of birth throughout the novel, Brian also learns about death. Brian endures many happenings that enable him to know what death is exactly and why it occurs. After the baby pigeons are born, Brian decides to take one home in the pouring rain. The pigeon is still way too young and cannot withstand the drastic weather, and by the time Brian reaches home with the pigeon, it is dead. "'It's dead, Spalpeen,' Brian's father said gently."(56). At this point in the novel Brian does not understand the significance of death as his father tells him that things die and this happens because that is the way a living thing ends. From this experience, Brian learns that one must dig a hole and cover the dead animal with earth. People call this burying, but why one does this, Brian does not quite know. Brian gets more information about death when his dog, Jappy dies. Brian expects his dog to always continue doing the things that he had always done. Brian longs to hear Jappy bark and see his tail wag, yet all Brian can see is his dog's stiff and lifeless body lying under a pile of dirt. Brian cries; all he wants is his dog back and shedding tears will not bring him back. From this experience Brian feels pain and emptiness inside his shattered soul. Brian's encounter with death does not only involve animals because his father becomes very ill and also dies. Brian has a difficult time accepting his father's death and is not quite sure how society expects him to act. Often fathers mean the world to their children and the thought of losing their father is enough to make one cry but Brian does not cry right away. "It was like getting a licking and trying to make yourself cry so you wouldn't get it so hard."(238). Brian has a hard time understanding why he has not cried. When reality strikes, Brian knows that his father is gone from his life forever causing him to grieve and cry. Brian's dad was his mentor throughout each happening about birth and death. When Brian's dad dies, he teaches Brian the greatest gift of life which is accepting the truth and letting go of fear. Brian's understanding of birth and death develops as he matures through each experience he encounters in the novel. Although by the end of the novel Brian has not grasped the full idea of birth and death, he has learnt a great deal about life. Brian's understanding of birth is a father planting a seed in the mother and when the baby is fully grown, it is born. Meanwhile, Brian's knowledge of death is someone or something that died and is physically gone forever. Throughout the novel, W.O. Mitchell has portrayed Brian as a growing and maturing young man who has only just began his search in discovering the true meaning of life.