by Richard Adams
Watership Down Theme of Freedom and Confinement
In Watership Down, there are many ways to be free. Rabbits can be free from worrying about food, like the rabbits in Cowslip's warren. Of course, those rabbits aren't free from humans catching and killing them. The Efrafan rabbits are free from that worry—they only have to follow every single law that Woundwort sets up. Maybe the hutch rabbits are the freest, since they don't have to worry about food, or carnivorous humans (since they're pets), or psychotic rabbits. Those lucky hutch rabbits only have to live their entire lives in a cage. Wait. That suddenly doesn't sound do free. Maybe there's no way for a rabbit to be totally free from all the cages and worries and elil. After all, even El-ahrairah occasionally has to face some confinement.
Questions About Freedom and Confinement
- How do wild rabbits react to being confined in cages or traps in this book? How do domesticated (hutch) rabbits respond to being out in the open world?
- Which rabbits trade freedom for something else, like comfort, security, or cell reception? What do they trade freedom for? How does the narrative make you feel about those trades?
- Who is the most free rabbit (or rabbits) and what is that rabbit (or rabbits) free from? What is that rabbit (or rabbits) not free from?
- What role does freedom play in the myths of El-ahrairah and the epilogue? Is Hazel freed when he dies?
Chew on This
Rabbit freedom is more important than security.
No rabbit is ever free because nature limits a rabbit's possibilities—look what happens to a rabbit like Woundwort who tries to be a fighter instead of a runner.