Watership Down Irony

Watership Down Irony

Irony of Humanity

In Watership Down, human beings are depicted predominately as brutish, unfeeling, and sadistic. With the exception of the girl who saves Hazel from the cat, human beings display little to no regard for the well-being of the world or the animals in it.

By contrast, the animals think, reason, feel, plan, and do all the intellectual and emotional things generally attributed to humans. Some of the animals even display psychic abilities.

Irony of Strength

Bigwig, the strongest and fittest of the Sandleford rabbits, is caught in a snare. He survives, but only because the smallest and weakest of the rabbits, Fiver and Pipkin, are able to dig out the peg securing the snare to the ground. Generally strong characters rescue weak ones, but in this case it’s the other way around.

Ironic Use of the Dog

Throughout most of the book, the rabbits are rightly afraid of dogs and other animals whom they consider to be “elil” or predatory enemies. In a last-ditch attempt to save their warren, Hazel and a picked team of fast runners deliberately set a dog loose in order to cause chaos and confusion among the Efrafan rabbits attacking the warren. Thus the dog becomes a savior in spite of itself.

Dramatic Irony: Woundwort and Hazel

Hazel, the Chief Rabbit of the Watership Down warren, brings a peace offer to General Woundwort. Woundwort does not think much of Hazel: a lame, medium-sized rabbit who would not have been fit for even patrol duty in Woundwort’s Efrafa warren. Although Hazel would have been a valuable hostage, Woundwort lets him go because he believes Hazel is just a relatively expendable messenger. The peace offer Hazel brings is actually quite brilliant since it would expand Woundwort’s influence well beyond Efrafa and well beyond his region of actual physical control, but Woundwort rejects it.

Irony of Comfort

In Strawberry’s warren, the Sandleford refugees believe they have found a safe, comfortable place to live. They believe they are being welcomed because the warren has still not recovered its numbers due to an outbreak of illness in the distant past, and they believe they are living in peace and harmony with a nearby farmer who sets out flayrah or garden vegetables for them as food. In reality, the rabbits of Strawberry’s warren are being fattened up for slaughter, because the area around the warren is set with snares. The residents of the warren accept the snares, and their own inevitable deaths, as the price they must pay in order to enjoy their comfortable lives. They welcome the newcomers hoping that they will run into the snares first, and allow the existing rabbits to live a little bit longer. To the Sandleford rabbits, Strawberry’s warren is a death trap.

Irony of Death

The Black Rabbit, who is dreaded and feared as the rabbit incarnation of death, is actually a benevolent creature and may in fact be an aspect of the Lord Frith, who is the rabbit god.

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