Watership Down

by

Richard Adams

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Themes and Colors
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Violence and Power Theme Icon
Authoritarianism vs. Democracy Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Watership Down, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Epic Journey

Though set in the word of humans, the plot of Richard Adams’s Watership Down borrows from classic epics and “hero’s journey” tales such as Homer’s Odyssey, Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and even, in a meta-textual turn, the rabbit world’s own folk hero, El-ahairah. When Hazel and a small group of likeminded rabbits leave their home in the Sandleford warren after Hazel’s brother Fiver

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Violence and Power

Though Richard Adams originally conceived of Watership Down as a fanciful tale about rabbits meant to entertain his two young daughters on a long car ride, the finished text is rife with violence, cruelty, and brutality, both physical and emotional. In highlighting the viciousness of the rabbit world in unsparing, often gory detail, Adams argues that though violence is indeed a part of nature, all too often, creatures both human and nonhuman use amplified, targeted…

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Authoritarianism vs. Democracy

Throughout the course of the novel, Hazel and his comrades continually find themselves in conflict with authoritarian regimes and power structures. From the strict Sandleford warren, to the ominous home of the rabbit Cowslip and his fellow rabbits, to the fascistic Efrafa (where rabbits are branded at birth and forced to eat, work, and relieve themselves in shifts), Hazel and his friends keep coming up against strict, sinister, or downright despotic establishments. Their search for…

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Home and Belonging

The story of Watership Down is the story of a group of rabbits and their search for their forever home—a place where they will be free from oppression and fear, and able to live as they please in harmony with both nature and with one another. Through the rabbits’ story, Adams crafts a larger narrative metaphor about the importance of belonging—not just in the animal world, but in the human one as well, ultimately arguing…

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