The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
William starts to put his windmill together, arranging everything on the ground outside his kitchen where there is both shade and a good steady breeze. He uses his maize-cob drill to bore holes in the tractor fan and attach his plastic blades using beer bottle caps for washers and bamboo sticks for reinforcement. The wingspan of the blade system is over eight feet when he is done.
William finally gets to put together all of his recycled pieces, still using the somewhat rustic methods that he used for his prototype. Yet this product is more than just a toy, with a wingspan large enough to match some professionally-made windmills in the United States.
Themes
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
William then turns to attaching the bicycle and dynamo to the tractor fan, manipulating the heavy and unwieldy bicycle frame and shock absorber until it is lined up correctly with the center hole of the tractor fan. William secures it together with a cotter pin, fastens the dynamo to the bicycle tire, and strings the bike chain through both sprockets. After all this work, it is dark. William goes inside and quickly falls asleep after a bath.
Though the mechanics of the windmill needed William’s engineering knowledge and academic ability, putting together the object itself also requires a large amount of physical strength to move the heavy pieces. William is not afraid of the hard work necessary to achieve his dream.
Themes
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
At first light the next morning, William begins building a temporary tower to see if his windmill machinery will actually work. William builds a pole out of bamboo, and convinces Geoffrey to help him lift the windmill onto the pole. Geoffrey then releases the bent bicycle spoke that keeps the blades from spinning and the blades begin to turn. Soon the blades are spinning so fast that the bicycle chain snaps and the tower nearly crashes down. William and Geoffrey catch the windmill before it breaks.
Geoffrey again comes to help William when he needs it, making it possible for William to do things he could never accomplish on his own. With the windmill, William has to go through many layers of trial and error, reinventing his project when something doesn’t work out how he planned originally.
Themes
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
William repairs the bicycle chain and hoists the windmill back up at an angle away from the strongest wind. He then attaches the windmill’s dynamo to Trywell’s radio to see if the windmill is producing any power. The radio plays music for a second and then starts smoking because the windmill produces too many volts for the tiny radio. William begins working on a way to dissipate the voltage from the windmill so that he can use the electricity it generates. He winds extra copper wire around a stick so that the electricity has to travel farther to reach the radio, and he is able to hook up the radio so that the wires clear out the extra voltage and the radio can play using wind-generated electricity.
William’s windmill is actually too powerful for the purposes he wants it for, meaning that he has to try again to make the energy created by the windmill usable. While it might seem that making the windmill is the hard part, the small details are actually more important for making William’s project successful. Geoffrey is worried about the effect on the radio, but William is singularly focused on his windmill project, no matter what he has to sacrifice to make it work.
Themes
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Get the entire The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind LitChart as a printable PDF.
The boy who harnessed the wind.pdf.medium
With the windmill test successful, William, Geoffrey, and Gilbert begin to build a real tower. Gathering wood from the same blue gum grove where William had tried the mangolomera magic ritual, the boys cut down three trees for the tower. They carry the trunks back to William’s house and construct a tower 16 feet tall using nails bought with Geoffrey’s paycheck from Uncle Musaiwale.
At the moment of William’s scientific triumph, he returns to the site where magic failed him. With the success of his windmill, science replaces magic in William’s conception of what controls the world. However, this success is also dependent on the financial and physical support of his friends and family.
Themes
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
At 7 the next morning, Geoffrey and Gilbert return to help William hoist the windmill on top of the tower. Using Agnes’ clothesline wire, the boys make a pulley system and take half an hour to pull the heavy windmill to the top of the tower. William then secures the windmill with sturdy bolts. People from the village begin to notice William on top of this tower and come to see what he is doing. When they ask what the machine is, William tells them it is “electric wind,” as Chichewa has no word for windmill.
William continues to show his ingenuity by thinking of ways to invent small things, like a clothes line pulley system, to make it easier to construct the larger invention of the windmill. The whole community comes together to see if William will be successful or not, though the concept of a windmill is so foreign to them that there is no word for it in the Malawian Chichewa language.
Themes
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
With the windmill finally steady on its tower, William collects a small contraption he has wired to the dynamo’s lightbulb to test the windmill’s current. He climbs back up the tower with the lightbulb as the crowd watches on, calling him crazy. William, picturing his success, pulls the bicycle spoke out from the windmill blades and prays that it will work. The lightbulb flickers, then holds a steady light. William and the crowd scream in disbelief and joy. William stays up on the tower for half an hour, basking in the glow of his hard work and achievement.
This moment of William’s success is a triumphant experience for the entire village, as the community still comes together to celebrate each other’s victories. The small lightbulb may be tiny in the grand scheme of things, but it symbolizes the culmination of all of William’s hard work despite the lackluster support of the community while he was building the windmill. This lightbulb represents the start of how far William’s windmill can go.
Themes
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
Science vs. Superstition and Magic Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Blue quotation bubble icon linking to an important quote associated with this summary and analysis.
For the next month, people come to see William’s windmill every day. Some even travel from other districts to see this miracle with their own eyes and compliment the Kamkwambas on their intelligent son. William boasts about his electric wind, especially to Mister Iponga in the trading center when electricity is cut off from a government power cut.
William becomes somewhat famous in his district, and a credit to his family. William is especially proud of circumventing the government in creating free electricity for his family, showing how William feels that he has to go around corrupt official policies in order to be successful.
Themes
Malawian Culture and African Community Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon
William then starts to wire electricity into his room. Gilbert again helps William buy supplies, making a deal with Charity for quality, insulated copper wire. William connects this wire to the dynamo on the windmill, then runs wire into his room along the wooden roof and dangles the dynamo lightbulb from his ceiling. His sisters are jealous that William has light in his room, and William begins to daydream about lighting his whole house and even getting a battery to store power for days when it is not windy. From there, it is only a small step to the huge money-saving inventions that will shield William’s family from hunger.
Though the windmill was the largest part of William’s hard work, his dream of bringing electricity to his house requires a little more work. William’s inventions are a constant process of reinventing and adapting the materials on hand to serve new purposes. William is not content to rest on his achievement, but keeps dreaming bigger of new inventions that can help his family even more.
Themes
Rebirth, Recycling, and Reinvention Theme Icon
Education and Entrepreneurship Theme Icon