(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Arden Benbow is caught releasing domestic rabbits into a wilderness area outside Los Angeles. She says that owning three hundred rabbits makes her look eccentric. She received a pair of rabbits that multiplied rapidly, so she decided to set them free.

Arden was born on the San Andreas Fault in Southern California, and she says that the minor earthquakes she experienced as a child developed her maternal instincts and made her determined to have a large family to counteract her fears of extinction. Arden tells the story of her life as an explanation of her present, and other people give their views of her suitability as a mother.

Arden was an English major in college, and, after her graduation in 1959, she met Whitney Malthus, whom everyone called Malthus. He looked like the actor William Holden and liked to talk about science and how everything worked. Arden was married to him for twelve years, during which time they had six children. She came to see Malthus as dull, egotistical, and unfair to women. Malthus gives his view that Arden humiliated him by becoming a lesbian. The mother of his children should not behave in such a way. Mothers should uphold the social standards; lesbians, Malthus believes, are social deviants. He claims that he should have custody of their children.

Ben Griffin gave Arden the original pair of rabbits and sold her feed for them. He says Arden is a smart woman who pays her bills, and that she deserves to raise her children. A man who works with Malthus says that Malthus treated Arden badly when she fell in love with a woman. A neighbor, Jim Muncey, likes Arden and says she is a dependable person. A receptionist at a veterinarian’s office says she got a crank call from a lady asking about birth control for rabbits, so she hung up the phone.

Wilson Topaz identifies himself as a dancer who cannot get many dancing jobs because he is six feet tall, black, and gay. He saw the advertisement to work as a babysitter for a lesbian mother, met Arden and her lover, Alice, and the children, and decided to join their energetic and happy household. He became part of Operation Bunnylift and was there when the police arrived just as the last of the rabbits disappeared into the wilderness.

The assistant registrar at Arden’s college gives a negative character reference, complaining that Arden changed her surname from Malthus to Benbow, her grandmother’s name, and further annoyed him because she hired Wilson, whom...

(The entire section is 1016 words.)