Rabbit Hill is set in rural Connecticut. The inhabitants of the animal community anxiously await the arrival of the "new folks" to the house on Rabbit Hill. They are fearful because there has been a series of "bad folks" living in the house, who brought traps and poisons to terrorize the animals. But for the moment the signs are good. The gardener, Tim McGrath, has been surveying the lawn and garden and the carpenter, Bill Hickey, has been looking to repair the tool shed. The animals associate these activities with the prospect of a healthy lawn and generous garden, which would benefit everyone. Mother Rabbit, however, has lost several of her grandchildren to humans and remains pessimistic that the "new folks" will only bring more pain and danger. This early tension between positive prospects and potential disaster continues through most of the story.
The effective merging of the setting and the conflict is the primary strength of Lawson's Rabbit Hill. The primary theme of community relationships issues from the successful resolution of the initial tension.
Lawson has been praised for his ability to capture simple American virtues in his stories. He achieves this by making each animal a distinct and memorable character. Lawson's language so distinguishes and defines his characters that they become a delight to the reader. Father Rabbit, with his purple passages of Southern eloquence—"This news of Georgie's may promise the approach of a more felicitous and bountiful era"—presents the image of the aristocrat, which contrasts neatly with his daring decisions to lead dogs on a chase or to take them off the trail of Red Buck. And Porkey, the eccentric woodchuck, speaks in broken sentences and tears at the grass as he stands his ground to defend his burrow. Perhaps most distinctive of all is Uncle Analdas, the doomsayer of the Hill, who rouses the animals to rebellion when Little Georgie is taken by the "new folks" following his automobile accident. These characterizations establish that the Hill is a diverse community, in which harmony comes only through the effort of each citizen, be it the determined self-reliance of Porkey and Analdas or the ability to change one's habits like the Grey Fox.
(The entire section is 671 words.)