The Rabbits

The Rabbits Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Australian Colonialism (Allegory)

The Rabbits is an allegory for the British colonization of Australia, which began in the late 1700s. While the marsupials represent Indigenous Australians, the rabbits, clothed in the traditional colonial style, stand in for British settlers. While the text does not make direct references to historical events, the story depicts the rabbits gradually and insidiously invading the marsupials' country through building settlements, displacing existing populations, degrading the natural environment, extracting resources, spreading disease, violently oppressing indigenous uprisings, and removing indigenous children from their parents in an effort to assimilate indigenous populations and erase indigenous culture. Each of the oppressive colonial tactics depicted in the book is based on a historical analog.

The Rabbits' Flag (Symbol)

The rabbits' flag is a symbol for the rabbits' unstoppable quest to take over as much territory as they can. As the rabbits take over the marsupials' country, they plant their red flag to mark the conquered territory. The flag, which resembles the British Union flag, depicts double-sided arrows pointing in the cardinal directions of north, northeast, east, southeast, south, southwest, west, and northwest. The all-encompassing directional arrows represent the rabbits' rapacious drive to explore the world beyond their own country and take over increasingly more territory.

Clocks (Symbol)

The ubiquitous clocks in the story symbolize the rabbits' collective adherence to their colonial project. In illustrations throughout the book, Tan depicts clocks dotting the cityscapes the rabbits construct. The clocks are used as instruments to ensure a uniform schedule for the rabbits to follow throughout the day. This collective adherence to a schedule is necessary for the rabbits to continue their inexorable colonial expansion through the marsupials' territory.