Because of Winn-Dixie
by Kate DiCamillo
Naomi, Florida is full of interesting folks, so Because of Winn-Dixie is a tasty smorgasbord of people and their descriptions.
Otis has "thick black hair," "slicked back like Elvis Presley's," and that's how Otis likes it (8.8). Well, duh. He's a musician, after all. If he can't play music in public, he can at least have a rock star 'do.
Sweetie Pie's hair, on the other hand, is "tied up in a ponytail with a pink ribbon. But it wasn't much of a ponytail. It was mostly ribbon and a few strands of hair" (8.30). Just like her hair, Sweetie Pie isn't a deep character. She provides a wispy, innocent commentary on what's going on. (Hey, she's only five, after all.)
And then there's feisty Opal. She has "red hair and freckles" (4.2). So did her mom. Surprised? The number of redheads in literature is way out of proportion to the actual number in real life. She also stands out from other kids when she befriends pretty much everyone.
On one end of the spectrum is Sweetie Pie, the youngest. She still sucks her knuckle and wears ribbons, and when it comes to a party, she's most excited about the theme. We want to give her a My Little Pony.
On the other end stoops Gloria Dump, who has "crinkled brown skin," bad eyes, and no teeth (9.22). Not too appealing, sure. But her age has given her plenty of wisdom to share.
Before Opal gets them to come out of their shells, all her new friends are strongly identified with their places. Like:
Miss Franny Block
We meet Miss Franny Block in her library cottage. Despite the grandiose name, the library is actually "a little old house full of books," much like little old Miss Franny herself (6.1).
She's had the library since childhood. She wanted "a little house full of nothing but books and [she] wanted to share them, too" (6.4). Bingo! That describes Miss Franny's personality to a tee. Her head is full of books and stories; her favorite thing is sharing them.
The preacher hangs out in the trailer (when he's not preaching at the church). He's usually bent over his work inside the small home.
Come closer. We'll let you in on the real truth. The trailer acts like the turtle shell Opal claims he hides in. His excuse? He's working on behalf of the "Less Fortunates." But we think that's just an excuse. He's so hung up on the loss of his wife that he hardly escapes his house! If you ask Shmoop, that is less fortunate.
Otis loves the pet shop so much that Franny can hardly coax him to leave. Why? He's more comfortable being around animals. In fact, Franny treats him like a wild animal (but not in a bad way): "I talked to him real soft and gentle and low, like he was a wild animal that I was trying to get to take food out of my hand" (21.24).
We could go on here, but we challenge you to check out more of the characters and their locations. Interestingly enough, at the end of the book, they all come out of their corners to come to the party. That sounds a lot like their hearts—slowly creeping out to join with others.
Because the book is written in Opal's voice, she doesn't tell us much about what she's like. Face it: that would sound pretty weird. You know, "I am courageous and kind, and also pretty funny." Ugh, right? Instead, we get to figure out who she is by what she does.
Like, she shows us that she's courageous by standing up
• to the store manager to save Winn-Dixie
• to her father to learn about her mother
• for Gloria when the Dewberry brothers call her names
And she shows us that she's kind by
• helping Gloria by reading her a book
• helping Winn-Dixie by holding him close during storms
• helping Otis by allowing him to play guitar at the party
And then she's, well, a kid. She tried to brush Winn-Dixie's teeth with her own toothbrush! Need we say more?
Head back to the text to find more actions that show who Opal really is. Here are some more adjectives to get your brain juices flowing: Loving, Spunky, Lonely. Okay, go!
Or take Winn-Dixie. We bet you've never met a friendlier or more understanding dog, and here's how we know:
he smiles at everyone
• he flops his head in the preacher's lap when they meet
• he gallops into Gloria's backyard before he's even met her
• he calms even the most dog-hating bird
• he listens to Opal tell her whole life story
• he sits up straight next to Miss Franny if she has a "fit"
Got it? Let's see how you do with a few more adjectives about our favorite dog: Caring, Clumsy, Lonely. Have fun!