Where the Red Fern Grows
by Wilson Rawls
Analysis: Narrator Point of View
Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?
First Person (Central Narrator)
Since this is a story about Billy Colman's experiences with a pair of hunting dogs, you'd think it'd be super handy to have Billy as the narrator, right?
Well it is, but don't get too excited. Billy tells us from the beginning that, "Piece by piece the story unfolded" (1.41). It's as if he is just remembering this story, and he is telling it to us as he remembers.
This raises the question: how well can he actually remember what happened 50 years ago? And doesn't it seem like may be exaggerating, or at least misremembering? Just a teeny bit?
Shmoopers, meet your good ol' unreliable narrator. Now, this doesn't mean Billy is necessarily lying, but it does make us wonder how accurate his recollection is. Think about the miracle of the big tree. Billy swears that was the only tree moving in the entire forest:
I looked over to my right at a big black gum tree. Not one limb was moving. […]. Over on my left stood a large hackberry. I looked up to its top. It was as still as a fence post. (9.122-123)
Sure, this could have happened exactly as Billy says it did, but how many times have you told a story and jazzed up the details a bit? Or couldn't remember the exact order of events? Look, all we're saying is—beware of 50-year-old memories. Sometimes we can't even remember what we ate for dinner last night.