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Where the Red Fern Grows

Where the Red Fern Grows


by Wilson Rawls

Character Clues

Character Analysis


Billy is one great kid, and while he doesn't go around telling everyone how awesome he is, because that would make him decidedly less awesome, we see it through his actions. Character after character in this book is astonished at Billy saving for two years to buy his pups. These actions establish Billy as a determined, hard working kid. Even the marshal is shocked when he hears about it. Comparing Billy to the town kids he says, "There's not one in that bunch with that kind of grit" (5.78).

And then, of course, there's that incident when Billy's grandpa gives him candy as a reward for all his hard work, Billy runs home and shares it with his sisters: "Arriving home I dumped the sack of candy out on the bed […] I was well repaid by the love and adoration I saw in the wide blue eyes of my three little sisters" (3.69).

So—hard working, determined, kind, considerate, the whole shebang. Just the kind of boy you want to bring home to mom.


Billy's lack of shoes immediately marks him as from the country, especially for the kids in town. When they see Billy without shoes, they start chanting "Hillbilly" (4.81).

But Billy still takes care of his appearance, "My overalls were patched and faded but they were clean. My shirt had pulled out. I tucked it back in" (4.36).

From this little bit of description, we know that Billy's family may not have much money, but they still take care of what they have and are proud of who they are. Isn't it neat how just a little sentence can do all that? The patching of his clothes shows that Billy, or more likely his mom, takes the time to make sure what he has is as nice as possible.

Family Life

Billy thinks he has the bestest family ever, and he kind of does. (No offense to all of you Shmoopers with totally awesome families, because obviously this is kind of subjective.)

They are poor, but super supportive. Billy knows his parents need money, so he gives all of his hunting money to them. And in a show of just how neat the family is, his parents don't even spend any of it. They save every penny so they can afford to move to town where their children will have a better life.

Even though there are times when it seems like the most important thing in Billy's life is hunting (many times actually), he's always there for the family in the end. Even in the hunting competition, he quickly abandons some coons when his grandpa needs help: "Up until then, the coon-hunting had been forgotten" (18.19).

And who was it that reminded Billy to get back on track with the competition? His grandpa. Without the support of his family Billy never would have been able to hunt as successfully as he did. And without Billy, his family never would have been able to move off the farm.

Huh. It's like they love each other or something.