Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The success of an animal fable depends on the ability of the writer to tell a story on two levels at once. To capture and maintain the reader’s interest, the story needs interesting events in a concretely presented secondary world. To become significant and memorable for the reader, the story must speak to human needs and human concerns. Adams uses several techniques to achieve the first of these objectives, making his secondary world seem real.

A close observation of the plants and animals of the English downs informs the story, and all the details of nature are seen from a rabbit’s-eye-view; the reader may find freshness and sharp reality in even the familiar daisy when the flower is seen from that unusual perspective. Part of the theme of the story is that human perspective is not the only one from which the earth is seen.

Like J. R. R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), Adams uses invented languages to present Watership Down from these unique viewpoints. Not only do the rabbits have their own language, words of which the reader encounters from time to time, but also rabbits from different regions speak various dialects. The other animals of the downs have their own languages, as the characters from the warren discover when they meet a field mouse and a seagull. Adams employs his rabbit language not merely as an exotic detail but to reveal further insights into rabbitkind, as an analysis of the word hrair...

(The entire section is 560 words.)


(Novels for Students)

The Natural World and Development
A major concern in the book is the devastation of the natural world that results from human...

(The entire section is 962 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The concern for the environment and the focus on leadership combine to form the central theme of the novel, which is the formation of...

(The entire section is 358 words.)