Rabbits and Racism

Rabbits and Racism

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde

This allegorical novel explores racism and xenophobia in contemporary western society by humanising rabbits. Yes, you read that correctly. In the world created by Jasper Fforde there are humans and human sized rabbits who are the ‘other’.

In any book that presents a reimagined version of reality the characterisation and subtext is incredibly important. It can be difficult for authors to communicate this world as ‘reality’ but Fforde has done this impeccably. The most effective technique he used for this is actually footnotes which provide history and added information of the world. I love how this adds authenticity to the writing and really draws you as the reader into this world.

Obviously the main theme of this novel is racism. By reframing the issue as inter-species the reader is at first bewildered but later reminded of the reality and brevity of the issue.

The simplicity of the issue, which is that people are so often scared of those who are different to them, is clear when it can be communicated in such an absurd re-imagined reality. The issue of racism and xenophobia has been portrayed in literature so often that this absurd reality helps the reader to absorb the content and take the issue seriously.

“The language of division can always be monetised.”

Fforde is an English author and it’s clear that this novel can be applied to so many countries including Australia. In the past years, Black Lives Matter has gained awareness and support. A lot of the books and films portraying these experiences of people of colour are realistic and often historical, which can be confronting and triggering for some people. By distancing itself from reality, this novel invites readers into a less confronting experience. I would even argue that this could be more effective in raising awareness as this explores everyday interactions where racism is often casual and ignored.

“I’m the least leporiphobia person you know. I’ve got absolutely nothing against rabbits. Fine upstanding creatures, many of them, I’m sure – just not around here.”

As with all novels the characters of this book are extremely important. The human characters represent the political views and groups of England as well as the ‘radical’ left. There are of course the rabbits, who are generally peaceful and just wanting to live in the society. Finally, there is a group of foxes who are generally cruel and bullies.

The tone of the book might not be for everyone, there is humor sprinkled in as well as very factual tones in the blurbs of each chapter. For example the history of the ‘United Kingdom Anti-Rabbit Party’ is explained in one chapter. Readers could be a little bit confused, or at least unsettled, by the human characteristics and personalities of the characters that are physically rabbits. Of course that is the premise of the book, but it can take a bit of getting used to.

This book is recommended for mature readers, as the themes are at times quite complicated. The writing is also quite sophisticated.

Suzy Cornford is studying journalism at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst. When she is home on holidays she worships at Turramurra Uniting Church.

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