Watership Down external image 0743277708.jpg

By: Anton D. Barclay

Q) What will be the outcome of Fiver and Hazel's followers when they journey to the envisioned land?
Q)What role does Fiver take on as the story proceeds?
Q) What effects will Hazel and Fiver have on the outcome of this novel?

Watership Down, by: Richard Adams, an epic tale of survival and prophecy amongst rabbits, in this essay I will conduct an in depth study of, themes, conflicts, and character development of this novel.

Watership Down begins with the introduction of Fiver, a very timid, small and mysterious rabbit. Fiver resembles the typical outcast of any society, never being taken seriously and is looked upon as being foolish/naïve. He is believed to harbour the ability to foretell the future, thus bringing one of the many conflicts of this novel to light. He foretells that in a vision he could see the fields of his home flowing with blood and countless rabbits dieing, sharing this info with his older brother Hazel, they took it to the Chief Rabbit, only to be shot down. Hazel, is an important support character for he is the only one who truly believes that Fiver knows the future, fearing for his life and others as well, he and Fiver, rounded up a group of followers which included Bigwig, a formal guard of the rabbit council to make the great journey. They and a few lesser rabbits abandoned their tribe in hope of a safer and more fruitful life. Bigwig, is considered to be the brute strength and at first leader, he feels as if the judgment of the Chief Rabbit is irrational and decided to join Hazel’s band of rabbits.

Following this I would like to begin with the different types of conflicts in this novel, Person vs. Person: When the antagonist causes problems or creates obstacles that the protagonist must overcome to achieve his or her goals. In the novel the antagonist usually are predators such as, foxes, birds of prey, stoats, and humans. Humans play a very important role in how the plot proceeds, for they are the ultimate reason why Fiver, Hazel and their passel of loyal rabbits abandoned their warren. Humans are considered to be destructive, vile creatures; they destroy without thought of others and kill only to further themselves. When Fiver spoke of the fields flowing with blood the prophecy came to be, only days after their treasonous escape their home was lathered in poisonous and intoxicating fumes killing every unsuspecting rabbit. Their home was reduced to an apocalyptic field of death,
"Some managed to turn around, but they couldn't get back because of the rabbits coming up. And then the runs began to be blocked lower down with dead rabbits and the live rabbits tore them to pieces"
When reading this I remembered the tale of "Noah's Ark" for it had some similarities, Fiver represents Noah, foretelling a great flood and destruction. Gathering two of each animal (In this case followers) to save from the catastrophe, they escaped almost imminent death. Personally I found this gave the novel some serious intensity, making survival even more fruitful.

Survival also seems to play a dominating theme for it fuels the conflict adding to the mature and compelling plot. From narrowly escaping death Fiver invasions a land beyond the great hills, a land where they shall live in peace and harmony. Yes they do succeed in find their "Promised land" but all doesn't work out as envisioned. Hazel encounters a peculiar rabbit by the name of Cowslip, he seems trusting at first but deep down he hid a sinister secret, oblivious to their surroundings Fiver and Hazel's followers proceeded to Cowslip's warren. I found at this point of the novel Hazel seemed to be developing a form of leadership over the group, he begins to feel more self confidence and lack of fear to the unknown which at one point almost leads to his death. Once they arrived at Cowslip's warren, they were introduced to the rabbits that inhabited the area, their daily life style was as Fiver would express it "odd" they would retrieve lettuce from a pile preset by a farmer and hoard it in their dens, dance under the moonlight, and the word "where" was taboo to them. Fiver refused to enter the warren for he had dreams of the roof being lined with bones, later you find out the symbolic meaning of this. In the next following chapters Bigwig becomes snared in a rabbits death snag, Hazel sends Fiver back to cowslip's warren to return with others to save Bigwig. They soon find out that the land is riddled with snares, and that cowslip's warren refuses to help because so.

How do these two conflicts differ? The theme of survival (person vs. environment) posses many similarities to the theme of person vs. person. I found that that the conflict of survival involved the causing of conflict indirectly an example of this, the finding of rabbit death snares in the land of the Great Hills. Humans hinder the survival and well being of all rabbits, as pointed out in the first paragraph. The symbolic meaning of "the roof was lined with bones" means because of so many lives lost to the snares, the warren has become a death hole and it was only time till one of them fall prey to the traps. Out of all other themes these two seem to dominate the plot, but at one point the two conflicts become one. After creating their own warren they face the dilemma of lack of does (female rabbits) because of this their numbers can’t flourish. Out of desperation they come up with a plan to swindle another warren of their does, but all doesn't go as planned. Their miraculous escape was anything but perfect; as they began to escape they were cornered by Woundwort, the final antagonist of the novel. At this point of the novel the conflict of person vs. person combines with the conflict of survival.

The development of Fiver, Hazel, and Bigwig seem to differ in many ways, the author portrayed an unique style of showing importance of each character. I found that even though Fiver was initially the first character introduced he eventually took on the role of a prophet I deemed this to be quite odd, the reason for this is Richard Adams, created the feeling of great importance very early on for a character that would eventually become a supporting ally. The ability to foreshadow and cause the story to dramatically proceed forward due to their actions seems like characteristics of a main character. Hazel developed in a totally different fashion though; the trials of life pushed him forward causing him to become dependable and a worthy leader. I first anticipated Hazel to become a supporting character due to lack of importance in the first five chapters, but as the story proceeds he becomes the driving force and cause of conflicts. Bigwig has shown the least amount of character development from beginning to end. He's portrayed as defender, keeper of peace, and at one point a leader as well. I felt as if this character lacked a more defined personality instead he possessed a stereotypical "shoot first ask question later" attitude.

In conclusion, I found this book to be just as enjoyable as any other animal fantasy novel. The Author has created a captivating and gripping story that encourages you to read on. At first I doubted I would enjoy reading a classic novel, but in the end finding myself wanting to read more. I can now see why this book is considered a classic, compared to series like "The tales of Redwall" this novel is in a completely higher rank. Out of a rating on a scale 1-10, I would give this book an 8.5 for creativeness and highly developed plot. Definitely recommended for anyone interested in animal fantasy.