hells Who Has SeenBrian’s Search for the Meaning of Life in W.O. Mitchell’s Who Has Seen the WindBy Rodrigo GollerThrough the brilliantly written book Who Has Seen the Wind, Mitchell isable to very effectively describe the tale of one boy and his growth on theSaskatchewan prairie. Brian’s childhood revolves around aspects of everydaylife, and in it he attempts to explain that which has evaded and mystified eventhe great minds of our times: the meaning of life. He is able to somewhatunderstand the meaning of life though his experiences with birth, particularlythat of a pigeon, and a rabbit.
His up-close-in-your-face learning of death,at an early age, when his dog, and subsequently his father dies. Lastly Brian’srealization that it’s all just sensations, and feelings complete his search forthe meaning of life.Early in his life, Brian has many experiences with birth. The first ofthese comes to him at an early age when he sees newborn pigeons. When hisfather explains how these pigeons were made, Brian understands that birth is thebeginning of life. Four years later, a similar conversation comes up whenBrian asks his father how rabbits are born.
With this new found knowledge,Brian also sees another newborn. But this time it was a two-headed calf, whodies at birth. Because of this, Brian comes to the realization that “God isn’tvery considerate”(166), for sometimes he lets things like the two headed cowcome into this world, only to suffer and then die.The Second instance in which Brian is confronted with the meaning oflife, comes to him when he sees death, and asks himself why.
When Brian’spigeon died, he asked his father why it had happened.”Why?” said Brian.”It happens to things,” his father said.”Why does it happen to things?” He turned up his face to hisfather, cheeks stained with drying tears.”That’s the way they end up.”Brian looked down at the baby pigeon in his hand.
“It was an egg. Now it’s stopped.””Yes Spalpeen, it’s stopped.” (56)Although this was hard for Brian to face, he was once againconfronted with death. This second time, his dog Jappy dies crushed by acarriage of horses as “the front wheels of the dray missed Jappy. The hind onesdid not.
A shrill and agonized cry arose.” (175) As Brian stood by, not able tohelp his dog, Brian “knew that this lifeless thing once had lived, but now his dog was dead,”(176) and that there was nothing he could ever do to bringJappy back. One final event, his father’s death, was an untimely and unexpectedhappening that made Brian realize that death was an eminent part of all lives;however, as many other things in life, death is not always foreseen. “He wassad. He was sad that his father had died. He was very sad.”(238)Once Brian had realized that birth and death were crucial parts of life,he learns that all else is but a “set of sensations-nothing else.
“(286) He canfeel things, see them, taste them, but that is all they are. A person is but anidea. “Whose? .
.. God’s.”(285) With this, the question comes, as to what isreal, and what is not. “The beginnin’-that’s being born; the end-that’s gittin’dead .
. . Both of them is real-good an’ real.”(134) And to fill in this gap,”there’s hunger an’ there’s sleepin’ an’ there’s wakin’ .
. . Them things isreal.” (134) With these explanations provided by Mr.
Palmer, Brian understandsthat not everything is as it seems, and that someday he will understand it all.Ultimately Brian discovers that the meaning of life is not simple butrather intricate and perplexing. The meaning of life, as Brian comes tounderstand it “has to do with dying; it had something to do with being born.Loving something and being hungry were with it too.
“(292) All this time the boyhad grown, and though the years, there had been the prairie. There had alsobeen “a baby pigeon, and a calf with two heads”(292). There was his father”who had died and his father, and his father, and his father before him.”(291)Although Brian did not have all the answers, he knew that someday “perhaps whenhe was older than he was now, he would know; he would find out completely andfor good. He would be satisfied.” Someday he would finally understand what wasnot clear to him now, for “the thing could not hide from him forever.”Somewhere in the prairie a pigeon is born, as God breathes life into it.
Somewhere in the dust there are the bones of a dog, and those of a man. -Somewhere in the vast field of God’s infinite imagination, a new being is made.Somewhere in the land there is a boy who is perplexed by life. A boy who triesto understand.