HomeLiterature Study GuidesWatership DownPart 2 Chapters 18 19 Summary

Watership Down | Study Guide

Richard Adams

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Watership Down | Part 2, Chapters 18–19 : On Watership Down | Summary

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Summary

Part 2, Chapter 18: Watership Down

The epigraph for this chapter is from William Blake's poem, "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell," a line about proof of what had only been imagined before. Hazel and his group have traveled three miles from the warren of the snares, and they are exhausted. However, they have stayed safe because they have stuck together. The near-death of Bigwig made them "come closer together, relying on and valuing each other's capacities." Bigwig knows that the group saved his life. He also has to curb his impulse to bully Strawberry, who is struggling along, trying to contribute to the group as best he can, given that he is out of shape and has never had to fend for himself. Bigwig even has to let the other larger rabbits fight off a rat attack because he is too weak to help. Buckthorn is bitten on the leg and gets an infection, which Hazel tends to. Hazel keeps everyone in line and makes sure that everyone's talents are used to their fullest.

Hazel, Dandelion, and Hawkbit climb up to the top of the down to see what it is like up there, and they discover that they can see all around them. No one can sneak up on them up there without being spotted. Hawkbit finds a few deserted rabbit holes and they stay the night there, finally safe.

Part 2, Chapter 19: Fear in the Dark

The epigraph here is from Thomas Hardy's poem, "Who's in the Next Room?" describing a "wan" visitor who is a familiar face. Hazel and Blackberry realize they have to have more than just the rough, abandoned holes they found to stay in, but bucks don't normally dig. Hazel decides if Cowslip and his warren could learn to carry, bucks can learn to dig if that means they can have a safe warren. They decide to dig near a line of trees, using the roots to hold the roof, and create a central room, like Cowslip's warren—Hazel likes the idea of a central place for them to gather. Everyone has to pitch in to dig the warren, and they take turns doing so.

In the dark, Speedwell hears something coming, and as it gets closer, there is no smell of anything but rabbit, yet there is a terrible wailing sound. Bigwig is afraid that it's the Black Rabbit of Inlé coming to take one of them to his death and is terrified when the voice calls his name. One cannot say no to the Black Rabbit when he calls. But it soon becomes clear that the voice is a rabbit in distress, wailing "Zorn!" which means all is destroyed. It is Captain Holly of the Sandleford Owsla, injured and traumatized.

Analysis

The good of the community is the theme of this section. Bigwig has to change his ways because he realizes that his life—and others'—depends on it. He has to trust the others to do what they are best at, while he does what he can. His outbursts of control and anger do no one any good, so he modifies his reactions. As is often true in a crisis, the group pulls together and relies heavily upon each other's best abilities to make sure they are safe. They also have to take on responsibilities they would never have in a regular warren, like digging the new warren. They have no choice if they expect to survive, so they all swallow their pride and take turns digging the new tunnels and the central meeting area.

Hazel is a master at taking the good and leaving the bad. He takes the best parts of the snare warren's design and uses them to design the warren that will work best for his group. He wants the group to continue to rely on one another, so a central meeting room helps them check in with the group and stay organized. Hazel's ability to keep a clear head and use others' talents is one of the factors in this group's incredible ability to survive so far, despite deadly challenges. The ability to learn something new is also a positive aspect of the grim life the rabbits in the snare warren lead, and Hazel jumps on this prospect in order to make sure that his group creates a safe new home, not just a series of the scratches that bucks make when they're desperate for shelter.

The arrival of Captain Holly confirms Fiver's worst visions, and everyone in the group will feel differently about trusting Fiver once they hear his tale. For Holly to seek out Hazel and his group, he had to set aside any anger he had about Bigwig's leaving and disobeying his orders. His instinct to find Hazel also reflects Hazel's influence as a calm, intelligent leader whom everyone can trust and to whom everyone is eventually loyal—sometimes after near-death experiences prove to them that Hazel's actions were correct all along. The author shows in this interaction that bluster and force do not make a leader, but calm forethought and trust in one's instincts do. True loyalty comes not from fear but from trust.

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