Elements of Fiction in "The Velveteen Rabbit"
Before Woody and Buzz Lightyear set off on their great adventure in Disney's "Toy Story," Margery Williams' "The Velveteen Rabbit" taught readers how toys are forever changed by the love of their childhood owners. The book tells the story of a simple stuffed rabbit who becomes a little boy's favorite companion. With the help of his friend the Skin Horse, the rabbit learns that a child's love and friendship can make a toy real. Knowing the elements of fiction in "The Velveteen Rabbit" can help readers better understand this family favorite, as well as learn the basic tools of story construction.
Conflict is the struggle between opposing forces that forms a story's plot. The conflict of "The Velveteen Rabbit" is primarily between the rabbit and himself. In the beginning, he struggles with inferiority from being bullied by the fancy mechanical toys in the nursery. His frustrations only increase when the Skin Horse explains to him that through love, toys can become real, offering him hope for escape. Throughout his relationship with the boy, the rabbit questions what "realness" means, often fighting against his old feelings of worthlessness. The conflict is resolved when the nursery magic fairy comes to transform him into a real rabbit.
Character development is the process of growth a character experiences throughout a story. Typically, the character who changes the most in a story is known as its protagonist. The clear protagonist of "The Velveteen Rabbit" is the rabbit. At the beginning of the story, he is quickly discarded on Christmas morning while the boy gravitates toward other more expensive, exciting toys. However, when the boy rediscovers the rabbit after losing his favorite toy dog, his love and attachment make the rabbit grow in confidence and self-esteem. By the end of the story, when the rabbit becomes "real," the plot's events have caused him to undergo powerful change in how he sees himself.
The places where a story's action unfolds can provide valuable clues to its main ideas. In the case of "The Velveteen Rabbit," the story takes place in two major locations. The first is the nursery, where the rabbit is often locked alone in the cupboard or left thrown on the floor; as a result of this environment, he becomes very shy and isolated. The second major setting is the outside of the boy's home. Here, the boy takes the rabbit on playful adventures and he gets his first glimpse of rabbits who are "real." The powerful contrast between the two settings creates a symbolic environment for the rabbit's character development.
In literature, a theme is the main idea underlying a story, or, as the Purdue Online Writing Lab explains, "what an author makes of the topic." In this story, a major theme is the power of friendship to help us overcome insecurities. Although the rabbit begins the story bullied and neglected, the boy's friendship proves to him that he is worthy of love. In the end, it is this same love that sets him free of the confines of his cloth body. The story teaches readers that being loved is what makes all of us "real," enabling us to overcoming challenges, live freely and be ourselves.
Personification is a technique in which animals or objects are given human characteristics and emotions. In "The Velveteen Rabbit," personification plays a key role in transmitting the theme to readers; because it is primarily written for children, the characters of the toys and animals create a fanciful, magical environment that brings the story to life. However, it also makes it easier for young readers to acquire the theme of friendship's power to transform us and see its application to their own lives.
Kori Morgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in professional writing and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has been crafting online and print educational materials since 2006. She taught creative writing and composition at West Virginia University and the University of Akron and her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals.