The Velveteen Rabbit
Williams, Margery. The Velveteen Rabbit. Illustrated by William Nicholson. George H. Doran Company, 1922. 33 pages.
With cherished memories, many people can recall a stuffed animal that they were fond of in their youth. In The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams examines a unique perspective on childhood toys by following a toy rabbit on his self-exploration. Initially, the velveteen rabbit is seldom played with by the boy. However, when the boy’s china dogs go missing, his Nana insists that he sleeps with the velveteen rabbit instead. As a result, the rabbit becomes the boy’s most prized toy.
Unlike many children’s books that pop with vibrant colors, William Nicholson’s illustrations primarily consist of muted red, yellow, and green hues. He deliberately selected these tones because they coincide with the rabbit’s internal conflict and personal journey.
The Velveteen Rabbit chiefly pertains to the division of philosophy that investigates the nature of reality: metaphysics. The concept of being Real is originally introduced to the rabbit by the Skin Horse who claims that a toy becomes Real after a child has loved it. This definition is challenged, however, when the velveteen rabbit encounters two live rabbits. These rabbits do not consider their velveteen counterpart to be Real because he is stitched and packed with stuffing. In the end, the nursery magic Fairy explains that the boy’s love made the velveteen rabbit Real to the boy. To be considered real by everyone else, the Fairy brought him to life.
For young readers, this book presumably sparks many questions about reality. The most common and basic question is likely, “What is real?” which is the central question asked in metaphysics. Because the story addresses the velveteen rabbit’s identity on several levels, a child might take away the principle that reality is a multidimensional concept with varying degrees of truth. However, a child’s understanding will be more rudimentary. For example, based on the principles found in this story, a child may recognize the difference between an imaginary friend and playmate she has at school.
“You mustn’t say that. He isn’t a toy. He’s REAL!”
By delving into more profound topics, like metaphysics, in children’s literature, it gives the child an opportunity to form questions about the world, even if her comprehension is only basic.