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Theme Makes All the Difference in the World

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Theme Makes All the Difference in the World

Things are not always what they seem. At first glance a book may appear to be an enjoyable and delightful children's novel, but the underlying plot and themes may classify the book as much more. A great example of this masquerade is Watership Down, by Richard Adams. Watership Down is set in the natural world and told from a rabbit's perspective. At a first glance, Adams seems to have written a lovely children's book full of adventure and fluffy bunnies, but as the plot unfolds, a deeper message is revealed. The main themes of Adams' novel are leadership, nature, and home.

Leadership is a continuous struggle through out the book. In the beginning Hazel leads the rabbits, but only because he believes in what he is doing (page 29). When Cowslip asks if he is the chief rabbit, Hazel is surprised as he had never thought himself so and it was never designated (pages 88-89). Early on, the leader is unclear and a few discontents try to mutiny. They are confused by Bigwig's size, strength, and training with the Owsla and mistake him for the natural leader, but Hazel seems to call the shots (page 62). After falling into the leadership role, Hazel has to learn how to handle it as he goes. As he becomes a more efficient leader, the other rabbits learn to trust his judgment and come to depend on him for the correct decisions. He learns quickly and can be given credit for leading his band to a safe and happy home.

Creating a safe and healthy home is a basic motif in all cultures and thus in all literature. As the rabbits travel along, they arrive at several different locations where one or more rabbits will ask if they can just stay. Hazel's only direction is to the high hills in the distance (page 130). They have no real sense of how long it will take them to get there, but Fiver and Hazel believe they will recognize the right place when they find it. The experiences along the way show them what they do NOT want in their new home and help them to accumulate new skills that will be put to good use in the Honeycomb.

The Honeycomb is placed in what the rabbits view as the best place. Its surrounding area is lush and provides adequate protection and they are able to survive off the land (pages 155-162). This theme of nature and the encounters the rabbits have with man and man's creations expresses the simplicity and rawness that many societies have lost. Everything that has to do with man, in the novel, is deadly. The train tracks, the domestic dog and cats that the farmer keeps as pets, and the snares all bring harm or death to the rabbits (pages 123, 215). Throughout the novel the rabbits seek a peaceful and safe haven in nature, but their encounters prove that this is often impossible.

Though the rabbits run into obstacle after obstacle, they continue on their journey. The driving forces behind

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