Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence | Study Guide

Doris Pilkington

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Course Hero. "Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence Study Guide." Course Hero. 16 Aug. 2019. Web. 17 Oct. 2021. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Follow-the-Rabbit-Proof-Fence/>.

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Course Hero. (2019, August 16). Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved October 17, 2021, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Follow-the-Rabbit-Proof-Fence/

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Course Hero. "Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence Study Guide." August 16, 2019. Accessed October 17, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Follow-the-Rabbit-Proof-Fence/.

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Course Hero, "Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence Study Guide," August 16, 2019, accessed October 17, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Follow-the-Rabbit-Proof-Fence/.

Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence | Themes

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Perseverance Pays Off

Much of this book reads like one long struggle between Australia's indigenous people and the British. The British goal is to impose Britain's imperialism on the Aboriginals; the goal of the latter is to resist. History records that in many ways the Aboriginal population loses the contest. Australia is now part of the British Commonwealth; forced removal of Aboriginal children was legal through 1970; the Aboriginal population in Australia is now one-tenth of what it was when the British arrived.

Nevertheless, a child wins a battle in this story, and one of the reasons Molly succeeds is that she sticks to her goals. Other children have run away from the Moore River Native settlement, but the only ones the author mentions are caught, brought back, and punished. But within 24 hours of her arrival at the Moore River Native Settlement, Molly decides to escape. The minute she and her cousins are off the settlement property, they meet challenges that would make most adults give up. Never once in the book, however, does Molly express doubts about her mission—at least not aloud.

Sadly, Molly will be recaptured and sent back to the settlement a decade after her happy homecoming—but she will escape and walk home again, using the rabbit-proof fence as her guide. And her abandoned daughter will become the author of this book.

Lessons from the Natural World

Molly and her kin structure their entire lives around understanding the natural world. "How does anyone keep travelling in a northerly direction on a dismal, grey day without a map or compass?" the author asks in Chapter 8. Molly can do it because she's unconsciously memorized the landscape as she and her cousins traveled south to Moore River. This, plus her bushcraft, or wilderness skills, and her determination, means that she feels at home in any natural setting.

Meanwhile, most of the British attempts to tame the Australian wilderness are either futile or destructive, and that definitely includes the rabbit-proof fence. Trying to fence out nature never works, and it's satisfying that Molly finds her way home because of a failed British experiment.

Persistence of Injustice

Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence does not end on an optimistic note. Chapter 9 wrecks any illusion readers might have about the success of Molly's mission. Throughout the book, the author makes it clear that the British perpetrate injustice on the native populations, and the natives inevitably give in—partly because the British have superior weapons and technology.

Molly's thrilling escape doesn't last. She's recaptured a decade after her first escape. She manages to run away for a second time, but must leave one of her children (the author) at the settlement. Her second child is removed from the family, and Molly never sees her again.

However, the author doesn't intend her readers to conclude that it's acceptable to surrender to the powerful. Indeed, her portrait of Molly repudiates that view. Nevertheless, in this book the antagonists ultimately triumph—at least for the time being. A few decades after the book ends, Australia will apologize to its Aboriginal peoples and begin addressing the nation's pervasive racism.

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