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Although numerous events take place, the primary conflict is for the rabbits to overcome their individual differences and develop a sense of trust and comradeship that will enable them to build and maintain a home in a safer location.
The protagonist of a story is the main character who traditionally undergoes some sort of change. Hazel is the protagonist of this story.
The antagonist of a story is the character that provides an obstacle for the protagonist. Plots may have multiple antagonists that work together to oppose the main character. In this story, humans and other enemies of rabbits, including certain other rabbits such as Woundwort serve as the antagonists.
The climax of a plot is the major turning point that allows the protagonist to resolve the conflict. In this story, the battle against Woundwort is the climax. Some of the rabbits think they should leave the new warren; most along with Hazel are determined to dig in and fight for their new home.
The outcome, resolution,
or denouement occurs when Woundwort is defeated with the help of the farmyard
dog. The rabbits live happily at Watership Down
SHORT PLOT/CHAPTER SUMMARY (Synopsis)
Having been persuaded by his mystic brother, Fiver, that their home is in immediate danger, Hazel takes a group of rabbits on a journey to build a new warren. In the course of their journey, they have to learn how to handle new experiences, develop new methods for handling crises, and avoid enemies. Not wanting to travel any further than necessary, they first attempt to make their home with a strange bunch of rabbits who have secrets and weird habits such as collecting farm-grown scraps and hoarding them underground. After nearly losing one of their most crucial members to a wire snare, the rabbits realize that the strange warren has become complacent and dull, unable to forage for themselves, and dependent on the vegetable scraps scattered across the field by a man. The price they pay, however, is that frequently the man sets snares and captures just enough rabbits to satisfy his need at the time. These rabbits live in a state of denial and threaten to kill any rabbit that would make them face the truth of their precarious existence.
After leaving the "tame" warren, the rabbits finally reach Watership Down where they build their new home. One essential element, however, is the presence of does. The rabbits befriend a wounded sea gull who helps them find more rabbits. They try to obtain does both from a nearby farm and from another warren known as Efrafa and located about three miles away. The Efrafa warren is run by a "Hitler" image tyrant who kills all who oppose him and runs a tightly controlled warren with no freedom of movement for the members. The first group of Watership Down or "Honeycomb" rabbits barely escape with their lives. The leader, Hazel, however, having survived his venture onto the farm but with the acquisition of only two does, believes they must make a second try to get some Efrafan does. They devise a carefully organized plot, with only the escape detail left uncertain. Hazel and his band approach the warren by following a river and crossing a bridge on the opposite side of Efrafa from their own home. Under the bridge they find a small boat which becomes their get-away plan.
Hazel and followers get about 10 does out of Efrafa with the help of Kehaar and a thunderstorm. However, Woundwort, the leader of Efrafa tracks them by sending his own soldiers to a previously known position. He loses the element of surprise because a mouse reports his presence to Hazel. The two warrens wage a bitter battle which is won by Hazelís group through the tenacity of his own fighters and the help of the farmyard dog. Some of the Efrafan rabbits are captured and eventually made a part of the Honeycomb. Efrafa becomes a better place under new leadership, and the two warrens send rabbits to start a third warren. The story ends with the rabbits living happily and reasonably untroubled on Watership Down.
THEMES IN THE STORY
See additional details in the Overall Analyses section.
Willingness to change
Brain Vs. Bawn
The ideal society
The story is easy to read, but although the vocabulary is fairly simple, the language style is sophisticated and serious. The author wrote the story in such a way that we accept the careful anthropomorphism of the rabbits, because although they act "almost" human, they are not ridiculous. A good balance of humor is maintained with the help of the stories of the rabbit folk hero El-ahrairah.