Watership Down

by

Richard Adams

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Watership Down: Chapter 37 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Though Bigwig’s first impulse is to turn around and fight Woundwort on the spot, he restrains himself and instead follows the general under the shade of a nearby tree. In the distance, the thunder is building up.
The thunder builds up more intensely as Bigwig is forced into a truly pressurized situation: a one-on-one with Woundwort.
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Woundwort asks Bigwig about his activities around the warren. When Bigwig asks why Woundwort is questioning him, Woundwort reveals that a rabbit named Groundsel, a member of the Owsla, recognized Bigwig—by the tuft of hair on his head—from an encounter with a homba in the woods some days ago. Bigwig insists he did not mean to lead the fox onto the patrol—he didn’t even know they were a patrol—and insists he was just trying to outrun the fox and save himself. Nevertheless, he apologizes for his role in the death of an Efrafan officer.
The discovery of Bigwig’s role in the recent fox attack raises suspicion about who he really is, and whether he is really a dedicated member of Efrafa. Bigwig assures the General that it was a mistake made in earnest—but is afraid of whether or not the imposing rabbit truly believes him.
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Woundwort, though, has more questions. He asks what Bigwig knows about a group of strange rabbits that have been traversing the countryside. Bigwig admits he saw their tracks, but was not travelling with them, and has no idea where they might have gone. Bigwig hopes that his questioning is over, but Woundwort has yet another thing to inquire about: he wants to know why Bigwig wasn’t afraid of the bird in the field this morning, and why he went so near it. Bigwig makes up a lie on the spot: he says that he wanted to “impress” Chervil with his bravery. Before letting Bigwig go, Woundwort asks him to keep an eye on Hyzenthlay and to report anything he hears about the does rebelling.
Bigwig is good at lying on the spot and keeping his undercover identity well-protected. Woundwort, though, is growing suspicious, and Bigwig knows that he cannot hold off such a powerful, well-informed adversary for too much longer.
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Out in the field, Hazel, Fiver, Kehaar, and the others wonder why Bigwig is not in place for the plan to unfold. They worry he’s been captured or killed. Fiver, though, insists Bigwig was probably detained for an inconsequential reason. Hazel sadly admits that they’ll need to give the plan up for the night—Pipkin hopes that tomorrow Bigwig will be ready. Hazel says that he will be—but if he isn’t, Hazel himself will march into Efrafa.
A hitch in the plan creates nerves and anxiety on the other side, too, and Hazel begins preparing to take drastic measures if need be.
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Bigwig and Hyzenthlay snuggle together in Bigwig’s burrow—he is exhausted with nerves, having realized how powerful and informed Woundwort truly is. He begins to worry that Woundwort is onto the whole plan and is waiting for an opportune time to make an arrest. Hyzenthlay admits that she is upset, too—she and Thethuthinnang told the other does about the plan, and she is sure by sunset tomorrow it will have leaked. They could all be arrested, she says, by tomorrow morning. As they fall asleep, Bigwig vows that if they are apprehended by the Council, he will fight them with everything he has. He will not let them make another Blackavar out of him.
Bigwig and Hyzenthlay, concerned though they are about being discovered any moment, decide to take their chances on the original plan for escape. They know, though, that if caught, they will need to fight tooth and nail—and even surrender their own lives—to avoid being trapped in Efrafa in a neverending cycle of violence and humiliation for the rest of their lives.
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Bigwig wakes alone around dawn and heads out to the entrance of the warren. He talks with the sentry about the bad weather—the thunder still has not yet broken. Bigwig wonders if he should take advantage of the oncoming storm and make a break for it but cannot decide what to do. He begs Frith to send him a sign.
Bigwig is becoming desperate and losing sight of what he should do. The approaching weather, which threatens to break at any moment but will not, directly mirrors Bigwig’s anxiety and indecision.
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At silflay, Nelthilta makes a remark to Chervil about staying sharp in case of a “surprise.” Bigwig attempts to distract the Captain by asking him to look at see if he’s gotten a thorn stuck in his paw, but as Chervil starts to examine Bigwig’s foot, he spots Kehaar again. He orders Bigwig to keep away from the bird. Bigwig tells Chervil that the way to get birds to fly away is to sing a charm: To Kehaar, Bigwig loudly sings the words “O fly away, great bird so white, and don’t come back until tonight.” Kehaar leaves, and Bigwig feeds while Chervil patrols the yard.
Several factors threaten to derail Bigwig’s plan entirely, and he is desperate to stay in control of things. He resorts not to violence, as is his usual modus operandi, but instead employs trickery worthy of Hazel or even El-ahrairah himself.
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Later that morning, Bigwig gets the chance to talk to Blackavar alone in the field. He tells him that he is a secret enemy of Efrafa, and that tonight, an escape is happening. He warns Blackavar not to do anything until the time comes, but to be ready. When an officer sees Bigwig talking to Blackavar alone he approaches them and threatens to report Bigwig, but Bigwig blithely returns to the burrow. He misses Hyzenthlay but decides that it would be best if they’re not seen together during the day.
Bigwig, with just hours to go until his escape, is becoming a little bit more reckless—but at the same time, he knows that to draw too much attention to himself would be to ruin his chances. He is sick of being in Efrafa, and longs to return to being his brash, bold self.
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