Watership Down


Richard Adams

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Watership Down: Chapter 32 Summary & Analysis

Hazel immediately leaps into action, scouting out the fox in the field. He sees that it is moving in a lazy kind of way; though it can certainly make out the group’s scent, it doesn’t seem particularly interested in hunting them. Nevertheless, Hazel urges the group to follow him away from the fox, but before they can start moving, Bigwig pushes past him and heads directly for the fox. Bigwig draws the fox off into the woods. All of the other rabbits are nervous as they watch the fox pursue their friend, but within moments, Bigwig emerges again, crying that he’s “never [been] better” and urging everyone to head out.
This passage sets up a fairly major narrative turn the novel is about to take. Hazel has been the leader and protagonist thus far—but it is Bigwig who will be going into Efrafa undercover, and as such he is shouldering more responsibilities and becoming even more invested in the survival of the group.
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As the rabbits hurry along through the little wood, their spirits begin to clear. Soon they are back in open farmland and moving at a clip. Hazel sidles up to Bigwig and reprimands him for acting recklessly and risking his life when “everything’s going to depend on [him]” soon enough. Bigwig tells Hazel that actually, when he drew the fox into the woods, he came upon a group of rabbits. He told them to run the other way, but they didn’t listen, and the fox attacked them, killing at least one. Hazel asks Bigwig to stay away from “fancy tricks” for the rest of their journey.
The group of rabbits Bigwig encountered in the woods have not been seen for the last time—and what the fox did to them will have devastating consequences for Bigwig’s upcoming mission.
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The rest of the night’s journey is uneventful, and they group encounters no elil or Wide Patrol rabbits. As dawn begins to rise, they near the iron road. They endeavor to cross it and are nervous that the “thundering angel of Frith” will appear and take their lives, but make it across without difficulty. As they feed in the grass on the other side, Kehaar approaches and warns them that a Wide Patrol is nearby. Hazel urges them all into a nearby wood, and the exhausted rabbits quickly fall asleep. 
The rabbits are absolutely exhausted, and even though their journey has taken them nearly to Efrafa and they should be on high alert, they cannot resist their natural instincts to sleep and refresh themselves before heading into even more danger.
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