Watership Down | Study Guide

Richard Adams

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Watership Down | Part 1, Chapters 3–4 : The Journey | Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Chapter 3: Hazel's Decision

The epigraph, from Greek historian Xenophon's The Anabasis, talks about questioning why the speaker is waiting to leave. Blackberry and Dandelion talk with Hazel about his meeting with the Threarah. Blackberry believes in signs left by men as signals of danger, so he is inclined to take Fiver's fears seriously. Bigwig shows up and asks Fiver if he is really sure that there is danger afoot, or if it's just a hoax. Fiver insists it's real, and Hazel, who knows Fiver well, says that they will leave the warren that night. Bigwig, who has decided to leave the Owsla because of his argument with the Threarah, says that he will come too and will find others who want to leave with him. Hazel decides that they have to gather as many rabbits as they can but asks Bigwig to be careful whom he talks to, so that the Threarah or Captain Holly, the captain of Owsla, doesn't try to stop him from accompanying Hazel's group.

Part 1, Chapter 4: The Departure

The epigraph, from William Shakespeare's Hamlet, describes how Norwegian crown prince Fortinbras gathers his army. Hazel gathers together his group at ni-Frith, which is after moonrise. Hawkbit, a slow rabbit, shows up with Dandelion, who says that Toadflax, a bigger rabbit, stopped him and asked where he was going. Blackberry comes along a bit later, and Bigwig shows up with Silver, a newer member of the Owsla. Buckthorn, a big rabbit destined for the Owsla, also arrives, along with Acorn and Speedwell, two "outskirters," bucks who are not dominant in the warren. Hazel is worried that Bigwig will bully Pipkin, another small rabbit, and Fiver, wherever they land, but before he can think more on this problem, Captain Holly shows up to arrest Bigwig. Bigwig immediately attacks Holly and his cohorts, with Buckthorn and Dandelion joining in the fight. Hazel tells Holly that they will kill him if he doesn't leave, and with that Hazel's group goes off into the night, leaving the warren for good.

Analysis

The rabbits that leave the warren are all either outskirters or dissatisfied members of the Owsla. Although Bigwig notes that they are a small group, his rebellious character kicks in when Captain Holly comes to arrest him. The description of the fight scene is vivid and includes biting, kicking, and blood. Up to this point it has been clear to the reader that the Owsla is a serious bunch, disciplined from the top when they are out of line, but this section reveals the deadly consequences of crossing authority. Bigwig's instant reaction, knowing how the Owsla works, is to jump on Holly and fight him. Bigwig has this reaction later in the novel, not always to the benefit of the group, but no one can say he isn't brave.

Holly says that Bigwig and Hazel will be killed for attacking the captain of Owsla, but Hazel is not moved by his threat. Hazel is not the one to physically go on the attack, because he is small, but it is clear in this section that Hazel is in charge of the group. His quiet threat to kill Holly if he tries to stop them not only reveals to the reader just how much he trusts Fiver's visions, but it also shows that Hazel is a strong leader who is willing to stand up for what he believes in.

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