HomeLiterature Study GuidesWatership DownPart 2 Chapters 26 27 Summary

Watership Down | Study Guide

Richard Adams

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Watership Down | Part 2, Chapters 26–27 : On Watership Down | Summary

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Summary

Part 2, Chapter 26: Fiver Beyond

The epigraph is from Uno Harva, quoted by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, describing how a shaman finds a path to the underworld. Fiver has a nightmare that a man is putting up a sign like the one announcing the housing development at Sandleford, to announce the death of Hazel, though he hasn't caught Hazel yet because Hazel has "gone down th' bloody 'ole," where the man can't reach him. Fiver wakes up with Blackberry there, checking on him. He tells Blackberry that Hazel is not dead, and Blackberry must come with him to get Hazel back home. When they get to the ditch, Fiver can smell Hazel in the hole and hears his heartbeat. Because of the dream, he knows where Hazel is and that he is still alive.

Part 2, Chapter 27: "You Can't Imagine It Unless You've Been There"

The epigraph is Signor Piozzi, quoted by Cecilia Thrale, commenting on never having seen such a people. The scene at Efrafa is very different from what Hazel's warren is used to. Back at the warren Holly tells the group what happened on his expedition. He says that after a long and wet two days of travel they crossed a road and came across a hare, who told them there was a warren nearby and "my advice to you is to run, and quickly." Three large rabbits surrounded them just then, asking what their Marks were. They told the rabbits they were strangers, not from Efrafa, and the big rabbits took them to the warren. Holly explains that the Efrafa warren is designed to be completely invisible to enemies, but the price that the members of the warren pay is their personal freedom. Their lives are run by the Owsla, under orders, and Holly says, "You can't call your life your own." He explains the Mark system, scars from bites given to the kittens, which arrange the rabbits into groups who come out of the warren to silflay only at a certain time each day for each group. The entire system is run by General Woundwort; he gives orders to Owsla captains, who in turn supervise officers. Owsla officers do a patrol around the warren to ward off elil and they take in hlessil, wanderers, or kill them if they won't join the warren.

Holly says that a Captain Campion took them down into the warren, where he met a doe called Hyzenthlay, who told him about the system there. She said that the warren was overcrowded but the general wouldn't allow anyone to leave, so the system was "breaking down." Holly describes the special police patrol, the Owslafa; they brought in a rabbit named Blackavar, who had been caught trying to escape. When Blackavar "came out they'd ripped both his ears to shreds." Woundwort told Holly the rules of Efrafa and assigned Holly's group to the Right Flank Mark, making it clear that the group would not be allowed to leave. Captain Bugloss, their captain, was "too busy" to see them, but when the time came for the Mark to silflay, Holly used his knowledge that everyone obeys orders in Efrafa to fool Captain Bugloss into thinking that the general needed to see him. Holly and his group ran away, up an embankment to "broad, flat pieces of wood and two great, fixed bars of metal that made a noise—a kind of low, humming noise in the dark." Holly describes how he and the others fell down the other side of the embankment, and how he believes Frith sent a huge creature racing down the metal bars between them and the Efrafans chasing them. He says it was "full of fire and smoke and light and it roared and beat on the metal lines until the ground shook beneath it." This "creature" terrified him, but it saved the group from being caught. All four rabbits are exhausted, and two of them are wounded.

Analysis

The author uses Fiver's dream as a way to show how he knows where Hazel is, though Fiver has to have Blackberry take him to the ditch in order to find the hole. Blackberry has learned to trust Fiver's instincts, so he does what Fiver asks him to do. The loyalty and respect that Blackberry shows Fiver comes as a result of Fiver knowing when danger is near and trying to warn the group ahead of time. Fiver is always right, too. He can smell and hear Hazel in the drain. The author uses language that appeals to the reader's senses to describe how Fiver actually knows that Hazel is down there, alive.

The Owsla at Efrafa represent a force that is even more authoritative than an Owsla usually is in a warren. They serve to implement the orders and rules that General Woundwort has created to keep the warren safe. This system reveals not only how stifling such a controlling process can be, but also how it backfires in the end and makes things worse. The loss of personal freedom makes it impossible to change the system, because no one can criticize it. When the system begins to break down, as Hyzenthlay put it, there is nothing that can be done because the rabbits at the top won't allow change. Rabbits in this warren are miserable living such a regimented life, and the author uses Blackavar as an example of how dire the situation is for those who try to escape.

It appears on the surface that the purpose of the Efrafan system is for the survival of the group, but the result is that the group suffers and cannot survive without harm to its members. The Efrafans are safe from outside elil, but they are not safe from General Woundwort and his officers. The author uses this system as a commentary on the evils of totalitarian rule.

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