The Rabbits

The Rabbits Essay Questions

  1. 1

    In what ways is The Rabbits an allegory?

    An allegory is a work of art that, through interpretation, may reveal a hidden and often moral or political meaning. While The Rabbits may appear on the surface to be an unassuming picture book about rabbits taking over a country of marsupials, the colonial invasion depicted in the text and illustrations is readily interpreted as a critique of the brutal, dehumanizing British colonization of Australia. In their colonial pursuit of economic and territorial supremacy, the rabbits stand in for the British settlers of Australia, while the oppressed marsupials represent the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples whose cultures were well-established in Australia when the British began their colonial project. Throughout the book, Marsden and Tan provide several references to historical events, such as the Australian frontier wars, the introduction of non-native species, and the child removal policies that precipitated the Stolen Generations. However, the author and illustrator alter the details enough to obscure the actual historical events in favor of presenting a simplified story. The text's allegorical nature means that the story is applicable to other colonial contexts, and has been taught to children living in colonial nations around the world. In this way, the allegorical nature of The Rabbits has ensured its moral, political message has reached a wider audience than a more historically specific story might have.

  2. 2

    What is significant about the rabbits' flag? In what way could it be considered a clue?

    As the invading rabbits take over more and more of the marsupials' country, they mark the conquered territory by raising their red and white flag. In this way, the rabbits' flag symbolizes their commitment to their colonial project and their unstoppable desire for assuming ownership over increasingly more territory. The flag's design clues the reader in to the allegory's historical underpinnings, as the double-sided arrows of the design cross over each other and intersect in the same pattern as the British Union flag's crosses. The pattern also depicts double-sided arrows pointing in the cardinal directions of north, northeast, east, southeast, south, southwest, west, and northwest. In their reference to a compass, the all-encompassing directional arrows of the rabbits' flag further reinforce the idea that the rabbits are driven to dominate as much of the globe as they can.

  3. 3

    What is the effect of narrating from the perspective of marsupials and not rabbits?

    Marsden's decision to narrate The Rabbits from the perspective of the displaced indigenous marsupials and not the eponymous rabbits invites the reader to see the story of colonization from the perspective of the colonized and oppressed. While most narratives in settler-majority colonial narrations are told from the perspective of descendants of and/or beneficiaries of colonizers, The Rabbits seeks to depict the perspective of a population who has been displaced from their homeland, seen their culture erased, their loved ones killed and stolen, and the environment devastated. With this authorial decision to foreground the marsupials' perspective, Marsden invites the reader to share in the marsupials' grief over the horrors of colonization. For this political and moral motive, The Rabbits has been criticized as propaganda. At the same time, the allegorical resonance of the colonial atrocities the story depicts has found sympathetic audiences around the world.