Study Guide

Because of Winn-Dixie Courage

By Kate DiCamillo


I knew I had done something big. And maybe stupid, too. But I couldn't help it. I couldn't let that dog go to the pound. (1.9)

Opal followed her gut in this moment. She had no idea what the preacher would say, and she'd never had a dog. But something deep inside told her she needed to save this one. Apparently, her gut knew that dog would end up saving her. Thank you, Gut.

"I've been talking to him and he agreed with me that, since I'm ten years old, you should tell me ten things about my mama. Just ten things, that's all." (3.25)

Whoa. This must have taken some courage, because the preacher has never told her anything about her mom. And yet, it seems, all she really had to do was ask. Getting the words out of your mouth is sometimes the hardest part of being brave, but yet so worth it.

"Well, if this bear intends to eat me, I am not going to let it happen without a fight. No ma'am." (7.15)

Miss Franny's got some moxie! There's a bear-fighter beneath her tottery, bookwormy exterior. It makes you wonder what other traits are hidden inside people, just waiting to come out at the right time.

"Or I could work for you," I said. "I could come in and sweep the floors and dust the shelves and take out the trash. I could do that." (8.9)

When it comes to adults, Opal has no fear. She strolls right up to Otis and negotiates a deal with him. How many ten-year-olds have that kind of confidence?

I finally decided that I was more afraid of losing Winn-Dixie than I was of having to deal with dog-eating witch, so I went through the gate and into the yard. (9.15)

Love for someone or something gives people superpowers. Like adrenaline-filled super-strength. In this case, Opal's love for Winn-Dixie gave her the extra oomph she needed to enter Gloria's yard. Yep, "Extra-oomph" is now a superpower.

"It's a fear that goes way beyond normal fears. It's a fear you can't be talked out of or reasoned out of." (11.17)

Well, sure Winn-Dixie can't be reasoned out of it: he's a dog. But this makes us wonder if there are other characters in the novel with pathological fears, or if they all eventually get reasoned or talked out of their fears.

"What do you think about this tree?"
I said, "I don't know. Why are all those bottles on it?"
"To keep the ghosts away," Gloria said.
"What ghosts?"
"The ghosts of all the things I done wrong." (14.18-22)

Gloria not only admits her mistakes but stares them in the face and scares them off with her Mistake Tree. Bam. That's real courage.

"Littmus W. Block 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)

Littmus experienced hunger, fear, fatigue, loss, and lots and lots of ugliness. He could have become a bitter and mean, but he didn't. He faced the ugly head-on and fought it down with a spoonful of sugar. His candy may not have made chalk drawings come to life, but it did make pain bearable. And Shmoop thinks that's supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Otis followed me all the way into the backyard, where the party was. (22.1)

Otis has left his "safe" place. We repeat: Otis has left his safe place. And we think that takes a lot more courage than facing a wimpy little dragon with a sword and shield.

"No," the preacher said. "No, I do not. I've hoped and prayed and dreamed about it for years. But I don't think she'll ever come back." (24.33-34)

The preacher finally faces his number one fear: that his wife will never return. He's been hiding from it for seven years, keeping himself holed up in his turtle cave. Finally, he says the words out loud: she's not coming back. And just saying those words, while scary and painful, gives him the strength to move on and look beyond himself again. Like, at his daughter, who's been standing there for seven years waiting for him to notice her.

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