Study Guide

The Velveteen Rabbit Themes

By Margery Williams

  • Appearances

    Would you rather cuddle with a brand new stuffed animal or a shabby one that's been broken in through years of hugging? In The Velveteen Rabbit, we learn that appearances aren't always what they seem. The Rabbit worries about how he appears to the other toys and the wild rabbits and even about losing his beauty to become Real.

    Then he figures out that none of that matters as long as he's got the Boy by his side. In the end, it's not how a toy looks that determines its worth—it's how much it was loved. Preach.

    Questions About Appearances

    • Why do you think the Rabbit befriends the Skin Horse?
    • Why do you think the Velveteen Rabbit wants to impress the wild rabbits so much the first time he meets them?
    • The grown-ups get the Boy a new bunny and he seems satisfied with this. Do you think he was? Or do you think he missed his old Velveteen Rabbit?

    Chew on This

    The Rabbit is self-conscious about his appearance when it comes to characters other than the Boy, such as the other nursery toys or the wild rabbits.

    The Skin Horse says becoming Real means losing some of your beauty but that you won't mind. This mirrors people in long-term relationships who grow old and age together.

  • Isolation

    If you think about it, being a toy would be pretty lonely. You just sit around waiting for a kid to play with you. Not the most exciting day. The Velveteen Rabbit doesn't even really have any toy friends to hang out with since all the other playthings in the Boy's room are kind of stuck up jerks. Since he's a toy he doesn't fit in with the wild rabbits either.

    Of course, he's got the Boy, but then the Boy gets sick and the Rabbit is back to Lonely Island again just waiting to be burned to a crisp.

    Kind of makes you want to take out your old toys and give them all really big hugs, doesn't it?

    Questions About Isolation

    • Why do you think the other toys in the nursery reject the Rabbit so quickly?
    • The Rabbit says that his first few nights with the Boy are very uncomfortable. Even though he's cuddling with a child, he still feels lonely—why?
    • Do you think the Velveteen Rabbit is sad that he couldn't make friends with the wild rabbits that he first meets?

    Chew on This

    When the Boy comes out of his own isolation after being sick, he's still very weak which is why he doesn't think the ask where the Velveteen Rabbit is.

    At the end of the story, the Rabbit is finally accepted. He no longer has to worry about fitting in or being lonely because he's found his home with the group of wild rabbits.

  • Love

    Literature is filled with timeless love stories. Romeo and Juliet. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. The Boy and the Velveteen Rabbit.

    Okay, hear us out on that last one. These guys aren't a romantic couple, but they are best buds. The Boy loves his little Rabbit friend so much that he makes this little bunny Real with the power of his affection. And the Rabbit loves him back. When the Boy gets sick, the Rabbit never leaves his side…until the doctor has to mention germ prevention.

    Questions About Love

    • Is it love alone that makes a toy Real? Or is there something else?
    • Why do you think the Boy loves the Rabbit? Why do you think the Velveteen Rabbit loves the Boy?
    • The Boy still loves the Rabbit even when he's all beat up—why is that important?

    Chew on This

    Grown-ups don't understand the Boy's love for the Rabbit, which is why they think they can just replace it with a new bunny and everything will be fine.

    The Rabbit is so devoted to the Boy when he is sick because the Boy is the one who made the Rabbit Real. It's the least the little bunny can do to repay him for his love.

  • Passivity

    Is there anything worse than a poor defenseless bunny out there in the world? How about a sweet and vulnerable velveteen rabbit? Now that really tugs on your heartstrings. The Rabbit in our story is a stuffed animal, so by definition that means he's totally passive. He can't move unless a human moves him. He can't jump or hop like the wild rabbits because he doesn't have hind legs. And when he gets into trouble, there's not much he can do but accept his fate and let loose a tear or two.

    Luckily, by the end of the story, the Rabbit gets a taste of action when he becomes Real and gets to hop around with the other rabbits in the woods. Now he's just…vulnerable to an attack from predators or a hunter. Ugh. Forget we said anything.

    Questions About Passivity

    • Why do you think the toys in this book aren't able to move on their own like they do in Toy Story? How would that change things?
    • How would the story be different if the Boy wasn't kind to the Rabbit?
    • Do you think you another toy in the nursery would have reacted to being thrown in a bag to be burned up? Is the Velveteen Rabbit's reaction almost too accepting?

    Chew on This

    The first time the Rabbit meets the wild rabbits in the woods, he realizes that he's not a flesh and blood rabbit and understands just how incapacitated he is by the way he's made.

    The Rabbit isn't totally passive throughout the story since he decides to help the Boy get better and succeeds. He gets to make a choice in that instance.

  • Sadness

    The Velveteen Rabbit may be a sweet little bedtime story about a bunny who becomes Real, but if you plan to read it out loud you better come prepared with some tissues.

    The Rabbit has to watch his beauty fade, breakdown after he's mocked by wild rabbits, help his best friend recover from a deadly illness, and then contemplate his life as he waits to be burned to death.

    Sure, things turn out a-okay for our little floppy-eared hero in the end, but the path to that happy ending is filled with sorrow. Pass the tissues.

    Questions About Sadness

    • Why does talking to the wild rabbits make the Velveteen Rabbit so sad?
    • Do you think Nana tries to save the Rabbit from the doctor's execution order? Is even she sad to say goodbye to the Boy's furry friend?
    • What do you think is the saddest moment in the story?

    Chew on This

    The Rabbit learns from the Skin Horse that becoming Real isn't all joy and happiness. Real love comes with sadness sometimes—just like in our world.

    At one point in the story it says the Rabbit "nearly began to cry," but we know that stuffed animals can't cry. That's why it comes as such a surprise when the Rabbit lets out one tiny tear as he awaits his fiery fate.

  • The Supernatural

    When you've got a stuffed rabbit who becomes Real, then you know you've got a story with some magic in it. The big enchantment that's at work in this story is toys who talk and love and feel and become Real.

    Basically, as the Skin Horse explains, a toy becomes Real when a child loves it for a really long time. It's one part nursery magic and one part good old-fashioned love power. In the end, the Velveteen Rabbit even gets a boost from the nursery magic Fairy who turns him into a wild rabbit. He's just not Real for the child who loved him—he's Real to the whole world.

    Questions About The Supernatural

    • Why is the Skin Horse the only one who understands the nursery magic?
    • Why is it so hard for toys that break easily to become Real?
    • How does the Velveteen Rabbit know he's Real? Why doesn't his run in with the wild rabbits shake his confidence in the power of nursery magic?

    Chew on This

    Once the Rabbit became Real with the Boy nothing could change that…which is why the Fairy comes to help him in the end.

    The Rabbit doesn't truly understand the nursery magic and what it means to be Real until the Fairy turns him into a wild rabbit.