The Velveteen Rabbit
By Margery Williams
Given as a Christmas gift to a young boy, the Velveteen Rabbit lives in the nursery with all of the other toys, waiting for the day when the Boy will choose him as a playmate. In time, the shy Rabbit befriends the tattered Skin Horse, the wisest resident of the nursery, who reveals the goal of all nursery toys: to be made "real" through the love of a human. "'Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'"
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
By Alison Coates
The children’s story, The Velveteen Rabbit, raises the philosophical issue of what exactly makes something real. A child is given a gift of a stuffed rabbit at Christmas. The story is told from the point of view of the toy. The rabbit is told that if he is loved enough he will become real. When the child falls ill the toy is to be thrown away, but is given a new life, and a new view of reality. There are several possible definitions of reality given in The Velveteen Rabbit. The first one being, obviously that the velveteen rabbit is an object that can be touched and seen and played with, therefore it is real in the very physical sense. The second is that something can become real when it is loved enough. The third and final definition of reality in the story is when the toy becomes a flesh and blood rabbit. The main focus of the discussion should not only be on what is real and unreal, but also upon whether there are different layers of reality.
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
How many of you have/ had imaginary friends or toys that you thought were real?
“The mechanical toys, like the model train, were very stuck-up and boasted that they were real. But the Rabbit could not claim to be a model of anything, for he didn’t know that real rabbits existed…”
The other rabbits tell the Velveteen Rabbit that he isn’t real, but the little Boy said the Rabbit was real.
The rabbits tell the Velveteen Rabbit that he isn’t real because he doesn’t do things real rabbits do. He doesn’t smell right; he doesn’t have hind legs, and he doesn’t dance the way they do. However, the Rabbit does do things that we may call real behaviors, such as crying, breathing, and having emotions.