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Themes

Billy doesn't get out much. His life pretty much revolves around his farm and his grandpa's shop. Naturally, his family has a huge impact on who he is—so it's sure lucky that he's got such a great family. Where the Red Fern Grows is as much about the impact of family as it is about the triumph of the individual. To prove it, Rawls contrasts the Colmans with the Pritchards. Their family is full of bullies and meanies, so, obviously, they're some serious troublemakers. The conflict between Billy and the Pritchard boys is as much a conflict between families as it is between individual adolescents.

Questions About Family

  1. Billy doesn't use names when talking about members of his family. What effect does this have on his portrayal? Does it make him seem more or less loving toward them, and why?
  2. Is Billy more like his mother or father? Does the young Billy seem to have a different idea about this than that narrator Billy? 
  3. Which member of Billy's family helps him the most in the novel? Does he seem closer to one member than to another?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

If Billy had known that giving his dad his hunting money would mean they had to leave the mountains, he would not have done it.

Without the help of his family, Billy would never have been able to succeed as a hunter.

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