Though the fox family and the other animals go through a harrowing ordeal when the farmers attempt to starve them out, and again when they attempt to dig up the hill, Mr. Fox and the others never lose sight of the ultimate goal of making sure their families are safe, fed, and happy. Mr. Fox and his children work together to dig tunnels and escape from the dastardly farmers. Moreover, in the end, Mr. Fox throws a banquet for all of the other animals, inviting them to come live with him and his wife and children and, in a sense, join his family. They work together, survive together, and are ultimately better and stronger together.
Unfortunately, it is Mr. Fox’s pride that makes the farmers first realize they have to take action against the woodland creatures. He considers himself to be a most fantastic fellow, and cannot imagine that the farmers might get fed up and take action against his thievery. The experience of watching his family starving and desperate humbles Mr. Fox, if only slightly, and forces him to back up his claims of being fantastic by devising a cunning plan to rob the farmers and save the day.
Additionally, it is the farmers' pride that compels them to sit and wait at the entrance to the fox family’s burrow, even after the foxes are long gone.
The theme of socioeconomic status is present in Fantastic Mr. Foxfrom the introduction of the farmers in the first few sentences of the book. Dahl writes, "Down in the valley there were three farms. The owners of these farms had done well. They were rich men. They were also nasty men. All three of them were about as nasty and mean as any men you could meet" (1-2). By having two distinct sentences about the farmers' prosperity before even calling them "nasty and mean" tells children that this is perhaps even a larger flaw, or what led to their nastiness. The farmer characters' wealth contrasts with the relative poverty of the animals who must steal or scavenge for food. Stealing is portrayed as necessary and righteous, and the climax of the book comes when the poor animals have a feast (and come up with a plan to continue feasting) at the farmers' expense.
Many of the characters in Fantastic Mr. Fox are shown to be hypocritical; in other words, to act in ways that go against their stated beliefs, especially on moral issues. This is used humorously, such as when the Rat berates Mr. Fox, the Smallest Fox, and Badger for stealing cider when he himself clearly does so to an even larger extent than they. However, this can also be used to bring up questions about Mr. Fox's character flaws; he seems to believe that killing is wrong, since he dislikes the farmers and disparages them to Badger for trying to kill him, but he himself kills chickens and eats other fowl without seeming to have any moral qualms.
One of the qualities Dahl seems to laud in Fantastic Mr. Fox is intelligence (or cleverness). Mr. Fox is called fantastic by his wife and others mainly because of his ability to come up with plans to get them out of trouble, which demonstrates his intelligence. While there are characters who seem more compassionate than him in the book, he is the central character because of the clever ways he comes up with ideas.
Out of the three farmers, Bean also takes the lead because of his intelligence. In all but one case (the idea of encircling the hill with workers from the three farmers' farms), Bean comes up with all the ideas and orders the other two farmers around. In this way, Bean and Mr. Fox could be said to parallel one another or form the crux of the story's conflict.
To the animals in the story, or at the very least within the fox family, family structure dictates a firm division between parents and children. In the fox and badger families, the children do not even have names to identify and differentiate them, simply being called The Small Foxes and Small Badger. While it is true that their parents are also identified by their animal type, it can be seen from the fox family that the children are identified almost entirely by size (perhaps reflecting age or birth order) rather than gender, individual identity, or any other identifying features. Furthermore, the parents in the book seem to feel fine making decisions for their children without even informing them about what is happening. For example, when Mr. Fox comes up with a plan to get the family food, he takes his children along to help him dig but refuses to tell them where they are going.
The conflict in the story arguably centers around Man vs. Man in a sense, if one views Mr. Fox as a full-fledged character and his conflict as being with the specific farmers in the story. However, symbolically the story represents a conflict between Man and Nature, with the farmers symbolizing mankind and the animals symbolizing the resilience of nature to human impact, especially through the use of modern technology. The farmers have cultivated the land and bred animals to get rich, and the wild animals attempt to use this to benefit as well by stealing a small amount of the food. However, when the humans try to stop the animals, they end up affecting not only the animal they want to kill (Mr. Fox), but also the entire ecosystem by destroying most of the hill near their farms and starving all of the animals in the area. However, in the end, the farmers are not as skilled nor intelligent as the animals in the story, and the animals are able to continue living peacefully with one another.
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.
Mr. Fox carefully selected what they would take while the other animals drooled with hunger. He chose a bit of each type of meat. One of the Small Foxes reminded him that some of the animals may only eat vegetables and suggested that they also...