One of them shone a flashlight on the hole, and there on the ground, in the circle of light, half in and half out of the hole, lay the poor tattered bloodstained remains of... a fox's tail.
Though this is a children's story, the brutal invocation of the "poor tattered bloodstained remains" serves to emphasize the brutality and cruelty of the three farmers. Despite Mr. Fox being the one who is technically in the wrong, Dahl's layering of evocative language effectively characterizes the three farmers as the villains of the story and evokes the reader's sympathy for Mr. Fox.
The machines were both black. They were murderous, brutal-looking monsters.
In this quote, Dahl makes use of personification to imbue lifeless machinery with brutality. The bulldozers are describe as being "murderous," "brutal-looking," and "monsters." By personifying lifeless machinery with a purposeful intention to murder and brutalize, Dahl continues to widen the playing field between Mr. Fox and the three farmers and emphasizes Mr. Fox's eventual victory over impossible odds.
Bean never took a bath. He never even washed. As a result, his earholes were clogged with all kinds of muck and wax and bits of chewing-gum and dead flies and stuff like that.
Dahl appeals to his young audience with vivid, disgusting, and perhaps hyperbolic details, while, at the same time, slipping a small moral message about proper hygiene. This quote also serves to underscore the negative characteristics of the farmers, which makes the reader dislike the characters and accept the fact that Mr. Fox steals from them.
The long, thin Bean walked away. The tiny Bunce trotted after him. The fat Boggis stayed where he was with his gun pointing at the fox-hole.
Dahl uses specific, repeated imagery to help the reader characterize and differentiate the three farmers. Though the farmers are similar in their greed, wealth, and dislike of Mr. Fox, their three different body types reveal flaws in their personalities: Boggis is especially greedy and slovenly, Bunce is childish and meek, and Bean is stingy and controlling.
I refuse to let you go up there and face those guns. I'd sooner you stay down here and die in peace.
Mrs. Fox rarely speaks or makes decisions throughout the book, but she does at times chime in with strong maternal sensibilities and moral values. In this quote, she makes a strong case for dying with peace and dignity, rather than fighting. That said, she does not seem to disapprove of Mr. Fox stealing to provide the family with food.
This place I am hoping to get to is so marvellous that if I described it to you now you would go crazy with excitement. And then, if we failed to get there (which is very possible), you would die of disappointment. I don't want to raise your hopes too much, my darlings.
Though Mr. Fox enlists his children (and eventually Badger) to help him with his fantastic plans, he often keeps information from others until he is sure the plan will work. This is especially interesting in the case of him not giving information to his children, as he seems to feel that he is protecting them by doing this, which some parents (and children) might disagree with on principle.
Mr. Fox chose three of the plumpest hens, and with a clever flick of his jaws he killed them instantly.
Throughout Fantastic Mr. Fox, Mr. Fox is presented as the protagonist of the story, but not a perfect character morally. Though Mr. Fox's life is being threatened by the farmers, and he and others seem angered by this, he has no problem killing other animals to have something to eat. In this sentence, Dahl even describes his act of killing with the word "clever," showing that he, as the author, condones this particular act of violence.
Mr. Fox and the three remaining Small Foxes dug fast and straight. They were all too excited now to feel tired or hungry. They knew they were going to have a whacking great feast before long and the fact that it was none other than Boggis's chickens they were going to eat made them churgle with laughter every time they thought of it. It was lovely to realize that while the fat farmer was sitting up there on the hill waiting for them to starve, he was also giving them their dinner without knowing it.
This quote spells out the irony of the story's rising action and climax, wherein Mr. Fox steals from the farmers while they wait for him to either starve or come out of his hole. This irony carries on through the great feast and to the end of the story, when the narrator tells the reader that the farmers could very well be waiting there still, while the animals live full, happy lives.
"Doesn't this worry you just a tiny bit, Foxy?"
"Worry me?" said Mr. Fox. "What?"
"All this... this stealing."
Mr. Fox stopped digging and stared at Badger as though he had gone completely dotty.
"My dear old furry frump," he said, "do you know anyone in the whole world who wouldn't swipe a few chickens if his children were starving to death?"
There was a short silence while Badger thought deeply about this.
"You are far too respectable," said Mr. Fox.
"There's nothing wrong with being respectable," Badger said.
"Look," said Mr. Fox, "Boggis and Bunce and Bean are out to kill us. You realize that, I hope?"
"I do, Foxy, I do indeed," said the gentle Badger.
"But we're not going to stoop to their level. We don't want to kill them."
This exchange between Mr. Fox and Badger about stealing a good deal of meat from Bunce and, after this dialogue, setting off to steal cider from Bean, lays out an argument for and against Mr. Fox as the true hero of the story. While Mr. Fox is clearly the story's protagonist, it is up to the reader to interpret whether the ease with with Mr. Fox steals (and kills and eats other animals, such as the chickens) means he is a morally flawed character. Mr. Fox, through his reasoning about feeding his children and not intending to kill the farmers in the process, convinces Badger to proceed to Bean's cellar.
Then Mrs. Fox got shyly to her feet and said, "I don't want to make a speech. I just want to say one thing, and it is this: MY HUSBAND IS A FANTASTIC FOX."
At multiple points throughout the story, Mrs. Fox compliments Mr. Fox for his bravery and cleverness, especially by calling him "fantastic," hence the name of the book. Mrs. Fox is a minor character in the book, and certainly a supporting character compared to Mr. Fox and even their three children. She is used mostly to reinforce Mr. Fox's direct characterization through her praise.
Fantastic Mr. Fox Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Fantastic Mr. Fox is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.