(Apparently, by 2001 the Spenser novels were known around the world, but not the Easter Bunny. Not sure if this is still the case!... But Bob worked to accommodate all his readers.)
The Spenser novels are a worldwide phenomenon. I get letters from all over the globe asking about the references, and quite a few are from people who have learned English very well but are not acquainted with the nuances of American culture. A reader from Japan asked about this cultural icon:
- "Would you please tell me about the Easter bunny? In Widow's Walk, Ch. 1, Rita said, "What about the Easter bunny?" I don't understand what she meant. In Ch. 28, Pike looked at me like I'd asked about the Easter bunny. I had encountered this expression in Double Deuce, Ch. 38: "How you feel 'bout the Easter bunny?" Hawk said. What does asking about the Easter bunny imply?
A good question, and I decided it needed a page of its own.
There are quite a few fantasy characters we have created to help children understand the world. When a child loses a baby tooth we comfort them by having them leave it under their pillow at night to be replaced with money left by the tooth fairy. Santa Claus comes from a mixture of several European legends of giving to others in the spirit of the three Magi who brought gifts to the baby Jesus.
Most cultures have holidays to celebrate the middle of winter, when they know the season has passed its worst, and another at the start of Spring. The early Christian church took over the ancient festivals and tied them into their religion; Christmas as the birth of Jesus, Easter at his resurrection.
Rabbits are well known to breed often and in large numbers. Eggs have long been symbols of future life, as are newborn chickens. Spring is when the Earth begins to come alive after its death in winter. The Christian and pagan concepts somehow blended to form the Easter bunny.
On Easter morning children wake up to find a woven straw basket containing egg shaped chocolates, marshmallow baby chicks, and colorfully dyed hard boiled eggs, supposedly left by the bunny (according to my dictionary: a childish word for rabbit, origin unknown.)
Even if you accept a coin under your pillow for a lost tooth or a pile of presents on Christmas morning, a child would have to be very young to even talk about the Easter bunny.
In Widow's Walk Rita is saying that full disclosure of the evidence by the prosecution (known as discovery, which is required by law) is in fact a fantasy, and Pike is wondering how stupid Spenser is to not know that Roy was getting money from Mary.
In Double Deuce Spenser points out that Major never really admitted his role in the shootings. Hawk implies that Spenser is being quite naive in his even considering the possibility.