Study Guide

The Velveteen Rabbit Sadness

By Margery Williams


"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt." (7-8)

Well, this is kind of a bummer. So you get to become Real, but you might be a little miserable along the way. We can see why the Rabbit isn't too jazzed about this process, even if what the Skin Horse says is true and he won't mind the pain.

That night, and for many nights after, the Velveteen Rabbit slept in the Boy's bed. At first he found it rather uncomfortable, for the Boy hugged him very tight, and sometimes he rolled over on him, and sometimes he pushed him so far under the pillow that the Rabbit could scarcely breathe. And he missed, too, those long moonlight hours in the nursery, when all the house was silent, and his talks with the Skin Horse. (17)

The whole process of getting to know the Boy starts out pretty melancholy. The Rabbit is squished and uncomfortable in the bed and he misses his old life. Sure, his sadness doesn't last long, but it just goes to show that what the Skin Horse said was true—becoming Real isn't all a walk in the park.

He was wet through with the dew and quite earthy from diving into the burrows the Boy had made for him in the flower bed, and Nana grumbled as she rubbed him off with a corner of her apron. (19)

The night the Rabbit gets left out in the grass, he gets pretty dirty and Nana isn't too happy about having to fetch him. We're guessing the Rabbit didn't much like being left out in the wet and mud either.

"Why don't you get up and play with us?" one of them asked.

"I don't feel like it," said the Rabbit, for he didn't want to explain that he had no clockwork.

"Ho!" said the furry rabbit. "It's as easy as anything," And he gave a big hop sideways and stood on his hind legs.

"I don't believe you can!" he said.

"I can!" said the little Rabbit. "I can jump higher than anything!" He meant when the Boy threw him, but of course he didn't want to say so. (29-33)

Poor Rabbit. These wild rabbits kind of make him feel bad about himself by hopping all around and showing off their skills. He tries to fit in by pretending he can jump super high…when the Boy throws him. That just breaks out hearts a little.

That was a dreadful question, for the Velveteen Rabbit had no hind legs at all! The back of him was made all in one piece, like a pincushion. He sat still in the bracken, and hoped that the other rabbits wouldn't notice. (35)

These mean girl rabbits are really making our little friend feel bad about himself. He doesn't have any legs to move around, so he just has to pretend he like sitting perfectly still and not moving at all. Total downer.

"He doesn't smell right!" he exclaimed. "He isn't a rabbit at all! He isn't real!"

"I am Real!" said the little Rabbit. "I am Real! The Boy said so!" And he nearly began to cry. (44-45)

These wild rabbits are breaking his little stuffed heart. The Rabbit gets so upset that these other guys don't think he's real that he nearly starts to cry. This is serious stuff. A toy can't really cry, but this little guy is feeling some serious sorrow.

It was a long weary time, for the Boy was too ill to play, and the little Rabbit found it rather dull with nothing to do all day long. But he snuggled down patiently, and looked forward to the time when the Boy should be well again, and they would go out in the garden amongst the flowers and the butterflies and play splendid games in the raspberry thicket like they used to. All sorts of delightful things he planned, and while the Boy lay half asleep he crept up close to the pillow and whispered them in his ear. (54)

Okay, so the Boy is sick and this is a pretty sad time, but the Rabbit is not about to leave his post. The Boy needs him. Nothing is going to get our little friend down right now. The Boy is gonna get better and they are going to play again. Oh, if only life were that simple, buddy.

Just then Nana caught sight of him.

"How about his old Bunny?" she asked.

"That?" said the doctor. "Why, it's a mass of scarlet fever germs!—Burn it at once. What? Nonsense! Get him a new one. He mustn't have that any more!" (58-60)

We get the feeling even Nana is objecting during this quote. She knows how much the Boy loves the Rabbit and how heartbroken he's going to be when his favorite toy goes missing. But the doctor is totally stone cold here. One bunny is as good as another. We guess this guy never had a favorite stuffed friend to cuddle.

He thought of those long sunlit hours in the garden–how happy they were–and a great sadness came over him. He seemed to see them all pass before him, each more beautiful than the other, the fairy huts in the flower-bed, the quiet evenings in the wood when he lay in the bracken and the little ants ran over his paws; the wonderful day when he first knew that he was Real. He thought of the Skin Horse, so wise and gentle, and all that he had told him. Of what use was it to be loved and lose one's beauty and become Real if it all ended like this? (63)

The Rabbit's life is kind of flashing before his eyes here. He's thinking of all the happy memories he shared with the boy and realizing that it's all about to come to an end. What good is being Real if you just wind up burnt to a crisp?