In this little girl's case, the name says it all. She's a regular little sweetie pie. Five years old, going on six in September, and she is just the cutest, with a big old open heart. She loves parties and themes and hair bows and Otis's music.
Oh, and Winn-Dixie. She LOVES that dog. So much so that she invites him to her party (in September) with Opal. And by doing so, she gives Opal a bit of happiness to look forward to. Even though she's only five.
Oh, those pesky boys! Dunlap and Stevie Dewberry, aged ten and nine, but with shaved heads on account of cat fleas, "looked like two identical bald-headed babies, even though they weren't twins" (9.2). Gee, Opal—those are some nice words from a preacher's kid.
Well, we have to say that the seem to deserve her name-calling, since they follow her on her bike and whisper behind her back, refuse to stop calling Gloria Dump a witch, and are just plain annoying. But hey, they're little boys. If you have any younger brothers, you know how little boys can be.
All the adults keep telling Opal that the brothers probably want to be her friends. What do you know: they're right:
When Opal takes Gloria's advice and waves to them—Dunlap waves back! Amazement!
When Opal invites them to her party—Dunlap says they'll come! Amazement!
Dunlap even admits to her at the end that he "knew all along" that Gloria wasn't a witch (26.10). "I was just teasing you," he says, and he even helps her off the ground into her house. Amazement!
So even bald-headed rotten boys can be lonely—and maybe even not so rotten.
Time for ol' pinchy-faced Amanda Wilkinson. Okay, she's not old, but her "face was always pinched up like she was smelling something real bad" (5.37). Turns out she wasn't smelling anything bad at all—she was feeling bad.
She was—you guessed it—lonely— for her younger brother, Carson, who died in a drowning accident. Because she felt bad inside, she acted rude on the outside, ignoring Opal, reminding Miss Franny what a good reader she is, and even resisting Winn-Dixie's doggy smile. But once Opal learns about Amanda's sorrow, she can see right through her prickly exterior to the lonely little girl inside.
And that lonely little girl soaked the offer of friendship right up. She needed Opal, just like Opal needed her.
Okay, okay, Opal's mother never officially sets foot in the story. She never even gets a name. But she plays a big role in the life of Opal and the preacher.
After learning ten things about her mother (see the full list in the Chapter Four detailed summary), Opal finds echoes of her all through her summer:
• Fast Runner: Opal can beat Dunlap.
• Story Lover: Hello! Opal collects stories all summer to tell her.
• Green thumb: Opal plants a wait-and-see tree with Gloria.
• Alcohol problem: Opal sees her mother's drinking problem in Gloria's past.
Opal's mother plays a massive role in the preacher's summer as well. He still can't get over the fact that she "hated being a preacher's wife" so much so that "she packed her bags and left us, and she didn't leave one thing behind" (4.14, 20). No wonder he keeps trying to hide.
So even though this woman doesn't have an official name and never says a word, she's got a finger on the story's remote control. Her absent presence in Opal's mind and the preacher's heart almost destroy Opal and her father, until they remember the people who are physically present in their lives. The people who didn't leave. People like, well, each other.
So thanks, Opal's mama. In a way. Kind of.
Or rather, thank goodness for the ability to finally move on.
Like Opal's mama, Littmus only shows up in stories, not in real-life. He was Miss Franny's great-grandfather. But he's still a pretty important guy.
Not only did he survive the Civil War, he also survived losing everything—and we mean everything: parents, sisters, house, even his own childhood—to the devastation of war. But he doesn't just lie down and die. He sits down, cries it out, and then decides to do something with his sorrow—literally.
He "figured the world was a sorry affair and that it had enough ugly things in it and what he was going to do was concentrate on putting something sweet in it" (17.1). So he concocted a secret flavor recipe that included root beer, strawberry, and—get this—sorrow.
Boom. Instant success and renown for his Littmus Lozenges. And that's about all we know about Littmus, but those lozenges play an important role in the rest of the story—savor a taste of it in the Symbols section.