As a kid, I was certainly a big fan of Peter Rabbit. Up until this class, however, I had never paid much attention to the subtle social commentary that Beatrix Potter makes through her relatively simple and fun book. While in class we discussed the gender roles, as well as the possibility of the American/British coloring of clothing, I was particularly interested in the comparisons of being in the “rabbit hole” juxtaposed with Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
While we can view Peter Rabbit from the viewpoint of social commentary, we can also look it at from the perspective of a dreamlike place. For starters, the book begins in the rabbit hole – a place of safety within a world of danger – but the rabbit hole also represents the fear that permeates in a world that is not completely real. Alice in Wonderland begins with Alice following the White Rabbit into the rabbit hole – beginning an adventure that challenges our reality. Carroll’s book was published about forty years prior to Peter Rabbit, but the idea of a talking, walking rabbit may have begun with Lewis Carroll’s book.
There is something genuinely quite terrifying about Peter’s encounter with Mr. McGregor. Mr. McGregor, though just helping his garden, can be seen as a sort of guardian into reality. Peter yearns to escape from the cloistered world that his family’s rabbit hole represents, and thus makes the intrepid journey to the garden. The garden may be the gateway to reality, and it turns out that Peter might not be ready for it. He goes to bed at the end of the story drinking camomile tea, while the rest of his siblings have a relaxing evening with their mother.