Watership Down Essay, Research Paper
HAZEL-CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER
There are many intriguing and fascinating lessons and thoughts that can be extracted from Richard Adams’s Watership Down when inspected under a “magnifying glass.” From those many issues, the one that is the most influential to ourselves is the issue regarding anti-segregation, portrayed ingeniously by Richard Adams through Hazel within many different cases in the novel. Out of those many instances, this essay will discuss two of them, explain how they display the issue of anti-segregation, and compare them to a famous historical and political figure.
The character in the novel that Richard Adam decides to portray as a “civil rights leader” is Hazel. Hazel and his companions have already discovered Watership Down and have just started getting settled when this first incident takes place. These rabbits live a very unique style of life. To these rabbits, almost every other kind of animal, weather known to them or not, weather they have ever seen or heard of them or not, are considered as Elil and always detrimental. Since Elil are almost every species of animals besides rabbits, these rabbits must be extremely careful when wondering through the forests because they might be confronted with Elil and be forced into very bad situations. In a way, these rabbits believed that all other types of animals, no matter how similar or different,
are always “bad” and these rabbits can have nothing to do with them. The exact definition of the word prejudice in the dictionary is – strictly defined, a preformed and unsubstantiated judgment or opinion about an individual or a group, either favorable or unfavorable in nature. In modern usage, however, the term most often denotes an unfavorable or hostile attitude toward other people based on their membership in another social or ethnic group. The distinguishing characteristic of a prejudice is that it relies on stereotypes (oversimplified generalizations) about the group against which the prejudice is directed. This is exactly what the rabbits were. It’s a hostile attitude relying on stereotypes based on their membership in another group, any other animal besides rabbits, being the other group in our novel. This is the “barrier” or “belief” that was broken by Hazel. He strongly believed that if you gave the other animals a chance, they might be able to prove themselves not to be enemies. Not only that, but at the end, they might even be beneficial to the rabbits, which is actually the case here, as we will see later on.
The first instance that Hazel shows his anti-segregation mentality occurs shortly after the rabbits find the Honeycomb. They were gathered underground when Silver quickly came down screaming “Hawk! Hawk!” After they were all safe underground they noticed a mouse had joined them. Quickly, Hazel came over to the mouse to see if it was ok. Contrary to the rest of the rabbits, he told the mouse it could stay underground until it was safe to go back up. Hazel was quick to notice that this mouse was of no threat to them, and didn’t see any reason not to help it. Just because it wasn’t another rabbit like them, didn’t mean that they had to automatically treat it like it was in a “lower class.” Since Hazel was able to understand this, and act on it, he was rewarded towards the end of the novel where the same mouse informed them that Woundwart was camped close to them and was going to attack them. This is the first example of how Hazel was not only physically a leader, but also a civil rights leader.
The second example occurs when Bigwig and Silver were wandering around and they saw and heard something behind the bushes. When they discovered it was a huge white bird they both tried to get close to it. As they approached it, it began to go crazy so they ran away. Hazel met up with them and asked them what happened. They told him about the big white bird that they found that was hurt. Quickly Hazel went over to the bird and started talking to it. When he realized that it was starving, he himself went into the ground and dug up worms to feed it. Hazel offered the bird, Kehaar, to stay with them. Kehaar had no other remedy so he agreed. Hazel made sure there was a “lobby” dug up for it so it could be safe and have enough room to walk around. Once again, we see Hazel going out of his way, and out of the belief that all animals besides rabbits were unacceptable, risking his own life to save another animals life. He sincerely believed that there was no reason not to help the injured bird. Kehaar needed help and they were there, so why not help a needy fellow animal. This is why all the animals respected Hazel. He was courageous and looked at all animals like himself, without being prejudice. The rule of not dealing with other animals except rabbits didn’t make sense to him, so he did what he felt was right. Towards the end of the book it is clear how beneficial Kehaar really was. He was a vital role in the mission to get the does which was ultimately what made up the new warren. From these two incidents in the novel we see how this civil rights leadership is shown through Hazel.
Hazel can be compared to historical figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman. Theses individuals risked their lives because they truly believed that all humans should be treated the same. No human being is any “better” than any other human being. We see and appreciate these people so much more now because we know that there was so much truth to what they believed in. Nowadays we see how much more we can do as a human race if we only worked together and ignored other peoples “deficiencies.”
In conclusion, we see how Richard Adams was not simply telling a story of rabbits. He was teaching us about issues that have to do with our everyday lives. Through Hazel he illustrated how if we all work together we can achieve so much more. People like Martin Luther King Jr. shared these same beliefs. This is truly the reason that Hazel was a leader and a hero. He believed that by standing up to the belief that all men were created equal this world could become a better place.