The sexual awakening in the short story “The Wind Blows ” and in the novella “The Virgin and the Gipsy” is very similar in a number of ways. In both works, young women on the brink of womanhood endeavor to attain full maturity in a number of ways. Both stories portray the mental confusion and general chaos the women struggle against in their quest for awakening, although the depth and structure of these works are markedly different. The reasons for this are obvious; one of the stories is a novella, and the other, a short story. The author of the novella, “The Virgin and the Gipsy” is able to describe the journey of the female protagonist in much greater detail and over a longer period of time, as opposed to the short story. The writer of the short story “The Wind Blows”, because of its shorter nature, is able to experiment in repetitive words and a short, gasping sentence structure which allows the reader to “feel” what Matilda feels, “The wind, the wind. It’s frightening to be here in her room by herself. The bed, the mirror, the white jug and basin gleam like the sky outside. It’s the bed that is frightening.” (56). Aside from structural differences, the essences of both stories are the same. The young women are changing and have to cope with a new role in life.
Both works shed light on the turbulent and confusing new world that these awakening young women find themselves in. Because of the changes that the girls’ are undergoing, it is a time of rediscovery, both of the world, as well as and especially of themselves. There is general confusion in the air, characterized in “The Wind Blows” by the wind itself. “In waves, in clouds, in big round whirls the dust comes stinging, and with it little bits of straw and chaff and manure (54)…the wind is so strong that they have to fight their way through it…” (57). There is great disorder and lack of control in the atmosphere. “‘You shut up!’ [Yvette] shouted, in a blast full of the mottled majesty of the old lady.” (Virgin, 59). Chaos intrudes into the girls’ world, as they and the people around them discover the change in the girls’ emotional and physical make-up. They have no faith in their old lives’ anymore, and they seek to renew their values and beliefs in a different way.
A new facet discovered by the girls is rebellion. Rebellion is a method by which the girls are able to effectively let out negative emotions. They find ways to circumvent unwanted or unneeded boundaries to their freedom, for example, Yvette quickly finds that her Grandmother is quite unbearable and delights in rebelling against her, “…without taking Granny’s message either…six young rebels, they sat very perkily in the car as they swished through the mud.” (Virgin, 27). Yvette becomes a crusader against the values of unwanted authority, conservatism, and negativity that her Grandmother and Father represent, and finds that it helps define her. Her new friends, the Jewess and her lover, as well as her love for someone whom her Grandmother and Father would consider low class, are the manner by which Yvette takes control of her life.
For Matilda of “The Wind Blows”, rebellion is not quite as pronounced, but she also feels the suffocation of unwanted authority, “‘Come back immediately!’…She won’t. She won’t. She hates Mother. ‘Go to hell,’ she shouts, running down the road.” (54). Matilda’s flight from her Mother symbolizes her flight from the suffocation and her need to break free is physically manifested. She resents the commanding presence of those about her at this period of her life, a period when she feels the need to escape and find herself again. Matilda is not happy in her present situation, “How hideous life is-revolting, simply revolting…” (54).
For both Matilda and Yvette, the confusion comes to a head when they encounter someone from the opposite sex. They encounter strange, unexpected feelings never before experienced by them. For both, the object of their adoration is a man of commanding presence. It is a man who is in control, completely sure of himself, and perhaps it is in this admiration of the male confidence that the girls’ find solace. For Yvette, this individual is a self-assured gipsy, a man who does not heed or respect any authority save his own. He is a rebel, he is noble, and he is powerful, “And as he loped slowly past her, on his flexible hips, it seemed to her still that he was stronger than she was. Of all the men she had ever seen, this one was the only one who was stronger than she was, in her own kind of strength, her own kind of understanding.” (Virgin, 40). Yvette is entranced by the sophistication she finds in the gipsy and finds that her feelings for him also give her greater power and control over her own life,
“She would strangle Granny with one hand. As she would have the same contempt for Daddy and for Uncle Fred, as men, she would have for fat old slobbery Rover, the Newfoundland dog. A great sardonic female contempt, for such domesticated dogs, calling themselves men. And the gipsy man himself! Yvette quivered suddenly, as if she had seen his big, bold eyes upon her, with the naked insinuation of desire in them. The absolutely naked insinuation of desire made her life prone and powerless in the bed, as if a drug had cast her into a new molten mould….The thought of the gipsy had realized the life of her limbs, and crystallized in her heart the hate of the rectory: so that now she felt potent, instead of impotent.” (Virgin, 53)
For Matilda, the individual in her life from whom she draws on is her music teacher, Mr. Bullen. His commanding authority and his mastery of the art is all-attractive to her, as is the feeling of peace and harmony when she enters his house. In this beloved sanctuary, she explores her fascination of this man, “How funny he is. He doesn’t exactly laugh at you…but there is just something…Oh, how peaceful it is here. She likes this room. It smells of art serge and stale smoke and chrysanthemums…” (55). When Mr. Bullen approaches Matilda, she begins to realize sexual attraction and is mortified by her sudden change, “Mr. Bullen comes back and walks up and down, very softly, waiting for her. What an extraordinary thing. Her fingers tremble so that she can’t undo the knot in the music satchel. It’s the wind…And her heart beats so hard she feels it must lift her blouse up and down.” (55). She is confused at her attraction and becomes quite upset when he calls her “dear child”. She begins to cry, perhaps because she does not want him to think of her as a child, or suddenly realizes that, for all her awakening, in the eyes of outsiders, she is still just a child.
Both of these works comment on a strange period of life, one in which confusion, chaos, and disorder rule supreme. These works are strikingly similar and describe protagonists who, in order to reassess their own lives, redefine themselves through various ways. Two of the most obvious ways are rebellion against perceived negativity and attraction to men of control and power aid in this process. In both stories, the men to whom the protagonists were attracted to were commanding figures, confident in their power and place in society. The girls seemed to draw upon this power and use it for themselves, in their quest for definition. Aside from fundamental differences in structure, i. e. of a novella and short story, both works dealt with the compelling subject of “awakening sexuality” in a very illuminating way.
WIEBE, RUDY. THE STORY-MAKERS. TORONTO; GAGE PUBLISHING, 1987