Study Guide

Because of Winn-Dixie Compassion and Forgiveness

By Kate DiCamillo

Compassion and Forgiveness

"You know, my eyes ain't too good at all. I can't see nothing but the general shape of things, so I got to rely on my heart. Why don't you go on and tell me everything about yourself, so as I can see you with my heart." (9.39)

Basically, Gloria Dump has X-ray vision. She looks past people's faults and surface insecurities to their gooey inside layers. Part of the reason she can do this is because she's had to forgive herself for her own mistakes. Opal feels drawn to her superpowers. Even Otis glows around her.

"No," Otis said. "I take them out. I feel sorry for them being locked up all the time. I know what it's like, being locked up." (12.6-8)

Otis may be quiet and socially awkward, but he has a squishy, compassionate heart. Even though the animals are not people and not being punished, he grants them a moment of freedom while he plays. Ironically, even while he frees the animals, Otis remains trapped, because he'd rather play for people.

"You can't always judge people by the things they done. You got to judge them by what they are doing now." (14.40)

Though what Gloria says this makes sense for Otis and Gloria, who have made past mistakes, does it also apply to Amanda? Before Carson's death, she was probably much friendlier and happier. But afterwards, she's a regular Snootypants. Is that her real nature now?

"And them Dewberry boys, you try not to judge them too harsh either, all right?"

"All right," I said. (14.42-43)

You can't really blame Opal for struggling with this one, because those boys are downright infuriating. Still, props to her for trying to follow Gloria's advice, and guess what? In the end, she does forgive them.

I was just getting ready to stick my tongue out at them; but then I thought about what Miss Franny said, about war being hell, and I thought about what Gloria Dump said, about not judging them too hard. And so I just waved instead. (17.36)

Talk about self-control. Opal is a poster child for forgiveness here, since being rude would have been so much easier. You go girl!

"You tell Stevie you're sorry if you said anything that hurt his feelings. I'm sure he just wants to be your friend. […] Some people have a strange way of going about making friends." (18.42,44)

The preacher makes a good point. Not everyone thinks the same way. He's teaching her a lesson in compassion, which he most likely had to learn many times as a preacher. Sometimes it's a better idea to turn the other cheek than to smack it. And let's face it. When it comes to boys and girls, no dad wants to teach the ol' "birds and the bees" lesson. Compassion is easier.

"It's just that I needed to know," I said. "Because it helps explain Amanda. No wonder she's so pinch-faced." (18.55)

It's a lot easier to forgive if we know the background behind someone's actions. But what if we never find out why someone is acting like a jerk? Is it still our responsibility to forgive them?

"Gertrude, the human Gertrude, she owns this shop, and she gave me this job when she read about me in the paper and she said it's all right for me to play music for the animals." (19.26)

Though we never meet the human Gertrude, she sounds like a keeper. Otis names his bird after her, for crying out loud! That has to mean something. In many ways, Gertrude the human probably saved Otis's life with her compassion.

She stared at me with her mouth open. "Okay," she said after a minute. "I mean, yes. Thank you. I would love to." (20.53)

What a change a little compassion can bring. Snotty Amanda just said thank you!

"I'm sorry that I called you and Stevie bald-headed babies." (26.7)

Opal finally apologizes to Dunlap, and in so doing, learns the truth: they were just teasing her. Sometimes it takes humility to find out the truth about others. Good thing she took the grown-ups' advice… otherwise she'd have missed out on some good friends. She would probably have a nice shiner, too. Or maybe the shiner would be for Stevie. Yeah, that sounds about right.

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