.. o use those very same instincts, which make them like the animals. Adams also shows that his themes of freedom and survival complement each other. Without freedom, no one is truly surviving. The characters in Watership Down, The Plague Dogs, and Maia all undertake a search for freedom, and survival. Along their quest, they are tested by nature (and sometimes man) to see how strongly they really want to be free.
(Those that do not, end up dying, either physically or by giving up hope and returning to their previous situations in a worse condition than when they left.) Those that succeed end up free, although along the way they may have nearly died, but they were striving for their freedom and a better way of life, struggling to survive. Adams, during WWII saw many people he knew die. They died at the hands of the enemy, but some died because of faulty planning and muffled leadership. Adams describes a certain plan, Operation “Market Garden,” in which thousands of his comrades died, and thousands more were taken prisoner due to the poor planning of upper ranking generals. Adams was, of course, one of those who came through the Operation unharmed.
Looking back, though, after the Operation and after he returned home, he had to keep on struggling to survive among all the grief that consumed him at the time. He said that he had never felt any lower at any other time in his life than when he returned home from the service. He was able to write his novels with knowledge of what it was like to have to struggle to free one’s self from whatever is holding him back, and keeping him from surviving in an environment suitable and acceptable to him. Threat of Man/Human Cruelty Love the animals. God has given them the rudiments of thought and joy untroubled. Don’t trouble it, don’t harass them, don’t deprive them of their happiness, don’t work against God’s intent. ..Adams’ book is the implication that some of man’s victims are clever enough to keep us from getting away with it, and that we might even learn from them something about escaping the beastliness ourselves.
He shut his eyes then, and scrabbled head-downward at the turf, for he did not want to see the pack close in, did not want to see the tod leaping, snapping and biting, outnumbered thirty to one, the blood spurting, the tearing, thrashing and worrying, the huntsman whipping his way into the turmoil and the tod’s body snatched, lifted high and knife-hacked for brush and mask before being tossed back-oh, so merrily-among the baying foxhounds. The strongest theme in The Plague Dogs, and Watership Down is the roles that humans play in the lives of the animals. Cruelty, and fear of humans are just two of the main issues that Adams tries to invoke in his books. In Watership Down, the rabbits live in constant fear of humans, the strongest of their thousand predators. The small group of rabbits are threatened out of their home by humans wanting to build houses in the same place as the warren.
The rabbits dodge gun shots, roads, train tracks, and other man-made evils. Adams clearly is showing that humans are evil and dangerous in the eyes of animals. Humans are creatures to be feared and loathed. They are very self-centered, and only think of themselves. In as much as Mr.
Adams has a message for his readers, I’d say it is to make them more sensitive to the complex balance of nature, more aware of the needs and ways of other species (and the effect of human actions on them), more mindful that we are creatures too, and must live in harmony with the others who share our world.. Yea, the coneys are scared by the thud of hooves, And their white scuts flash at their vanishing heels, And swallows abandon the hamlet-roofs. The mole’s tunnelled chambers are crushed by wheels, The lark’s eggs scattered, their owners fled; And the hedgehog’s household the sapper unseals.. Humans, in Watership Down, are depicted as enemies. In The Plague Dogs, they are destroyers.
At the Animal Research (Scientific and Experimental) Station, animals are treated like paper. Once they are used, they are thrown away. Adams clearly despises animal testing. He depicts all of the scientists at the station to be cold, ruthless, and incapable of feeling any type of emotion. He wants to persuade his readers to hate animal testing too.
He gives many examples of what goes on in the Station, what types of experiments are performed, and the attitudes of the scientists performing the experiments. ..was looking over the interim reports on the smoking beagles..Of course it was open to people to give up smoking, but this would plainly be an intolerable demand to make, as long as experiments on living and sentient animals held out a chance for something better..The dogs, trussed and masked, were ingeniously compelled to inhale the smoke from up to thirty cigarettes a day..after about three years they were to be killed for dissection and examination. ..”Well, I mean, how long do we go on using the same guinea pigs?” “Use them up, of course,” answered Dr. Boycott rather shortly. “They cost money, you know.
Apart from that, it’s only humane. The Littlewood Committee report had an entire chapter on wastage. We don’t use two animals where one will do.” “Well, this lot have all had tar doses on both ears now, and the ears removed in just about every case-every case where there’s a cancerous growth, that’s to say.” “Well, you can go on and use their limbs for the same thing, you know.” ..”Do we ever use anaesthetics [sic]?” “Good God, no, said Dr. Boycott. “D’you know what they cost?”.. Adams’ life has been filled with nature.
His childhood was spent living in nature and listening to his father teach him about nature. He respected nature as a child and he respects nature now. His job, before he started writing, was that of an air-pollution expert with the British Department of the Environment. So, Adams actually decided to devote his life to the preservation and the continuing study of nature. It is no wonder that Adams would write books that try to make people realize how precious and fragile the balance of nature truly is, and how humans are throwing that balance off.
Dignity/Rights Dignity (the proper rights and self-respect one has) and rights play a large role in Maia, and a smaller role in The Plague Dogs. Maia deals mostly with the issue of slavery. Slavery does not only destroy one’s freedom, but it also takes away the dignity that a person might have. By being under someone else’s control, a person may lose all the self-worth that they may have felt. Maia was reduced to providing sexual pleasures for her fat, lazy master.
She had to do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, and as often as he wanted. When one is a slave, their own interests have no worth to their owner; they are simply there to be used, for whatever purposes. In a specific situation in the book, Adams describes a girl, Milvushina, who was a wealthy baron’s daughter in the province of Chalcon. Maia’s owner, Sencho, (called ‘Piggy’ by his slaves) who was the head of the Secret Intelligence of the Beklan Empire, sent orders to have Milvushina’s family killed, or at least everyone killed but her. Piggy took Milvushina into his household as a slave.
He made her do the same types of things as Maia, except he would tease and torment her while she was doing them. This situation is a very direct, example of Adams’ use of dignity and human rights as a theme. This example shows how one girl, a girl with noble blood, can be reduced at one blow to a sex-slave by someone’s personal greed. By the same token, The Plague Dogs also talks about dignity and rights, not of humans, but of animals. Once again, Adams uses the Animal Research (Scientific and Experimental) Station as his villain. The Station, quite simply, does not allow animals to live normal lives, therefore stripping them of all of the rights ever given to them–more specifically, the ones that allow them to survive by their own means.
Animals are used as pawns for humans at the Station. They have numbers for names. They are seen only as things to be used at the whim of humans rather than as the unique creatures God created them to be. The shed comprised, in all, forty pens, arranged in two double rows. Most of these contained dogs, though one or two were empty.
With the majority of the pens, all four sides consisted of stout wire netting, so that for the occupants of these there were three party walls and three canine neighbors, except where an adjacent cage was empty. Adams dealt with dignity first hand. His father, George, was, at first, a doctor for the local hospital in Newbury, then he set up his own practice, but still helped at the hospital. George was a generous doctor, allowing patients to pay smaller sums because they could not afford the entire fee. He was a doctor, so he was paid well, but, because of his kindness, the family was not as wealthy as they could have been. George also enjoyed a drink now and then.
While Richard was growing up, so was his father’s taste for liquor. George also had to deal with three children. He had to deal with Katherine, who was in college, John, who was in prep school, and Richard, who just growing up. By the time Richard had reached prep school age his father’s drinking had gotten worse. Not until Richard’s fifth year at school had his father’s drinking actually affected his profession as a doctor.
George was forced into early retirement because he had lost many patients and could not continue making a fool of himself. While Richard was at Oxford, George suffered a heart-attack, which made him curb his drinking, but it was already too late. They had to sell Oakdene, and they moved into the gardener’s cottage. George had to sit by and watch many of the old trees get cut down by the new owners. All of this was a shock to George’s dignity and, after retirement, he simply let it eat him alive. Richard, who was very close to his dad, watched all this and it pulled at his heart-strings. Writing about dignity allowed him to show people how important it really is, and what can happen when that dignity is stripped from someone.
Guilt The Girl in a Swing is a study of guilt made manifest-of the far-reaching effects of the past, clattering in upon a fragile porcelain world. The Girl in a Swing, has many other sub-themes, but none of them represents the work as accurately as does guilt. Guilt is the only true theme of the novel. Guilt leads to the fall of the two main characters, and it also brings them together. Kthe, a beautiful young German girl, and Alan Desland, a young man whose very life is the business of fine porcelain, meet while Alan is visiting friends in Copenhagen. He falls madly in love with her, and she with him.
After a few weeks, in which Alan learns nothing of Kthe’s past, except that she does not like the church for some reason or another, they jet off to Florida and get married. On their return, Kthe fits in beautifully into Alan’s life. Alan finds, though, that he starts seeing and hearing things. He hears the sounds of waves and a girl crying. He sees a young girl walking and crying.
All the while, Kthe is becoming more and more nervous and frightened. At the end, Kthe is killed by a young girl at the beach. The young girl was Kthe’s daughter. Somehow, Kthe had killed her, and the ghosts would not leave her be. She was killed by her regarding the past, and by her fear of telling anyone of her deed. She let it consume her, and Alan, for Kthe was Alan’s reason for living, although they had only been married for a short period of time. When Kthe died, a part of Alan also died.
Everyone experiences guilt at some time in their lives. Adams too must have had some reason for writing a novel about guilt. His autobiography states normal things to be guilty about: not being there for his dad, not living his life to the fullest, etc, but, for the most part, up to WWII he had not experienced any large guilt factor in his life. After WWII, nothing is known since Adams likes to keep his family life private. Nature/Scenery Nature and scenery are a minor theme, but they are worth mentioning because they helped to create Watership Down, and Maia. Without the scenery, and Adams’ in-depth knowledge of nature, the atmosphere would not have been so successfully set, and the stories would have come across to the readers as being all wrong. In Watership Down, the scenery helps to make the rabbits more dignified by showing perspectives.
If the novel had been written from a human perspective, everything would have been read at a “taller level” and the reader would never have been able to discern nuances or the feelings that the rabbits displayed. Adams had to write at a level more suitable for rabbits, not humans. In Maia, Adams weaves an imaginary world. By describing all the details, as seen by a young girl, the images become clear in one’s mind. The reader can see what Maia likes and what she’s afraid of. He can see how splendid or grand the baron’s hallway is, and how dumpy the motel looks. In a world unknown to anyone, the scenery and nature are just as important as the characters are.
Adams’ themes of Freedom, Survival, Threat of Man and Human Cruelty, Dignity and Rights, and Guilt all have some connection to his life. They all also pertain to all people’s lives. Adams was writing novels based not only on his own experiences of his life, but he was writing to try to get a particular point across to the general public. He was trying to create awareness. If the readers of his novels found his straightforward messages and took them to heart, he did create awareness.
Bibliography Adams, Richard. Watership Down. New York: Avon Books, 1975. Adams, Richard. The Plague Dogs. New York: Alfred A.
Knopf, Inc.,1978. Adams, Richard. The Girl in a Swing. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1980. Adams, Richard.
Maia.? Adams, Richard. The Day Gone By: An Autobiography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1991. “Adams, Richard.” Contemporary Literary Criticism.
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6, pp. 4-8. “Adams, Richard.” Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 18, pp. 1-3.