Watership Down

by

Richard Adams

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Watership Down: Chapter 36 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Bigwig wakes up to find Avens standing over him. The officer tells him it’s time for silflay and asks who Fiver is. Bigwig asks what Avens is talking about, and Avens replies that Bigwig was saying the name in his sleep. Bigwig says that Fiver was a rabbit he knew once who could foretell the weather. Avens asks if Bigwig himself can tell what’s coming on the wind now—Bigwig sniffs and picks up the scent of bad weather approaching.
Bigwig’s subconscious is worried about the other rabbits, and as Avens catches him dreaming, he is forced to make a up a quick excuse. This is the first real moment of fear of being discovered Bigwig has had, and to symbolize this threat, Adams incorporates the simultaneous threat of slowly-approaching bad weather.
Themes
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Authoritarianism vs. Democracy Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Above ground, Chervil greets Bigwig and asks if the weather worries him. Bigwig admits that it does, but Chervil says it shouldn’t break until tomorrow evening. Chervil and Avens cheekily ask Bigwig about having brought Hyzenthlay to his burrow—they ask if he got any information out of her, and Bigwig replies that he’ll need to “keep at it.”
Bigwig is doing his best to affect the demeanor of a typical Efrafan officer on the outside—but on the inside, he is growing nervous about the “break” of both the thunder and his secret plan.
Themes
Violence and Power Theme Icon
Authoritarianism vs. Democracy Theme Icon
Bigwig spends the rest of the silflay looking around the yard and trying to find the best way to attack Blackavar’s escort and make it away with the poor rabbit in tow. As he looks around he spots Kehaar in the grass, and slowly, inconspicuously makes his way over to the bird. They converse quietly with their backs to one another so as not to draw any attention. Bigwig tells Kehaar that tonight at sunset he is breaking out with the does. Kehaar tells Bigwig that the boat is still in the river, and ready to go. Bigwig points out the sentries and orders Kehaar to attack them as soon as he sees Bigwig go into the burrow to retrieve Blackavar. Kehaar promises to fly at the sentries and make sure they don’t stop Bigwig, Blackavar, or the does.
Bigwig is grateful to see Kehaar—to be reminded of home, of the rabbits who are still waiting for him, and of the viability of the plan they created together. Kehaar’s allegiance to the rabbits and willingness to help them shows how their mission of democracy, openness, and freedom is a symbol of hope to all kinds of animals, not just other rabbits.
Themes
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Authoritarianism vs. Democracy Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Chervil approaches, and as he does, Kehaar flies away. Chervil asks why Bigwig was taking a risk getting so close to a dangerous gull—in answer, Bigwig gives Chervil a playful cuff and remarks that he can defend himself. Chervil remarks that though Bigwig can take care of himself, it’s odd for a gull to be in the countryside out of season, and says he’s going to report the sighting—everything unusual in Efrafa must be reported at once.
Bigwig did not anticipate that even if he were able to explain away Kehaar’s presence, the Efrafans would be so keen to report it as an unusual occurrence. Bigwig has underestimated the threat to any and all privacy within Efrafa.
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After Chervil leaves, Bigwig goes back to the hollow to find Hyzenthlay. She is with Thethuthinnang, and he informs them of the plan he’s made with Kehaar. He urges them to get the does together at the start of silflay later in the evening—they will run for a stone arch in an embankment several hundred yards away at Bigwig’s signal. Bigwig spends the rest of the day exploring the burrow and, with Chervil’s permission, the fields above ground. When it is time for evening silflay, Bigwig steels himself and heads out with the rest of the Mark. As he returns to the field he sees Kehaar flying across the grass but is startled when a rabbit comes up behind him and asks for a word. The rabbit is none other than General Woundwort.
Bigwig throws his plan into motion and then spends what he believes is his last day in Efrafa exploring and seeking out any cracks in the warren’s security or any possible threats to the plan. At the last minute, though, everything is derailed by the arrival of Woundwort—the most powerful rabbit in the warren, and the most direct threat to Bigwig’s survival.
Themes
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Violence and Power Theme Icon
Authoritarianism vs. Democracy Theme Icon