Built exclusively from recycled materials, William’s windmill represents the triumph of human invention in the face of poverty and starvation. It is a testament to William’s personal aptitude for science, built from his independent study of physics textbooks rather than a formal school education. Indeed, William only has time for the windmill because he is forced to drop out of formal schooling when his family is unable to pay the high school fees. William’s success with the windmill then symbolizes the achievements that are possible when individuals in tough situations apply their intelligence, hard work, and effort to inventions and innovations that can improve the quality of life in developing countries. William did not need the Malawian government or foreign aid organizations to step in and give him money to better his life; he only needed to be assured of the basic necessities for survival and given the chance to realize his own dreams for the future. The windmill thus stands for William’s desire to improve life for himself and his family, and the practical ways that William can repurpose the things that other people throw out in order to accomplish this goal.
William’s windmill is both a practical and a metaphorical life saver for his family. In the practical sense, the windmill provides free electricity that allows the Kamkwamba family to have light at night, charge cell phones, and eventually power a water pump that makes it possible to have two harvests each year. In the metaphorical sense, William’s windmill earns him the attention of Malawian professors and officials who boost William’s story and help him earn funding and educational opportunities that benefit the entire village. William also passes the advantages of the windmill on to the next generation, using his fame to garner more support for education efforts in rural Malawi (and Africa at large), so that young students are given the chance to develop their own “windmills” – whatever inventions those windmills might turn out to be.
The Windmill Quotes in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
What is this? I thought. Pulling it out, I saw it was an American textbook called Using Energy, and this book has since changed my life.
The cover featured a long row of windmills - though at the time I had no idea what a windmill was.
Within a few meters, I entered the scrapyard and stopped. Behold! Now that I had an actual purpose and a plan, I realized how much bounty lay before me. There were so many things: old water pumps, tractor rims half the size of my body, filters, hoses, pipes, and plows.
Just then a gust of wind slammed against my body, and the blades kicked up like mad. The tower rocked once, knocking me off balance. I wrapped my elbow around the wooden rung as the blades spun like furious propellers behind my head. I held the bulb before me, waiting for my miracle. It flickered once. Just a flash at first, then a surge of bright, magnificent light. My heart nearly burst.
In Malawi, we say these people are “grooving” through life, just living off small ganyu and having no real plan. I started worrying that I would become like them, that one day the windmill project would lose its excitement or become too difficult to maintain, and all my ambitions would fade into the maize rows. Forgetting dreams is easy. To fight that kind of darkness, I kept returning to the library every week.
But Geoffrey was scared we would be arrested by the authorities for messing with their frequencies. People were also saying this nonsense about my windmill: “You better be careful or ESCOM power will come arrest you.”
If the first people to experiment with great inventions such as radios, generators, or airplanes had been afraid of being arrested, we'd never be enjoying those things today.
“Let them come arrest me,” I'd say. “It would be an honor.”
Erik wasn’t a biological African (he was raised in Kenya and Sudan), but what he said summed up our crowd perfectly:
“Africans bend what little they have to their will every day. Using creativity, they overcome Africa's challenges. Where the world sees trash, Africa recycles. Where the world sees junk, Africa sees rebirth.”
I took a deep breath and gave it my best. “After I drop out from school, I went to library… and I get information about windmill…” Keep going keep going. . . “And I try and I made it.”