India Opal Buloni is the ten-year-old protagonist of the story. She lives with her father, whom she refers to as "the Preacher." They live in a trailer park in a small town. Her mother left the two of them when Opal was three, and Opal still yearns for her mother after all these years. She eagerly grasps for any knowledge about her mother which she can learn and never stops hoping that one day they will be reunited. This is indicative of Opal's loving and optimistic nature. In their new town, a lonely Opal is keen to take in a stray dog whom she names Winn-Dixie. With Winn-Dixie by her side, friendly Opal quickly forms relationships with different characters all over town. Her innocence and simple honesty attract those around her. She has a kind and generous heart and is easy to love. Opal is a hardworking and persistent young girl who does not shy away from responsibilities, qualities which are demonstrated by the way she handles her new pet and takes on a job. She is respectful and mature for her age and because of this, she is able to connect well with people who are much older than her.
Winn-Dixie is the dog that the story's protagonist takes in after a chance encounter at a grocery store. He is named after the grocery store he was found in. Winn-Dixie is a gentle and friendly creature who helps Opal make friends with a variety of people. Winn-Dixie is a loyal friend and constant companion to Opal. He loves peanut butter, music, stories, and he smiles by baring all of his teeth. He finds a way to connect with all sorts of people—he appreciates Otis' music, Ms. Franny's stories, and Gloria Dump's sandwiches.
Opal refers to her father as Preacher throughout Because of Winn-Dixie, and because of this, the reader never learns his real name. The preacher is a man defined by his profession. In one passage, Opal compares her father to a turtle who keeps his head in his shell. When Opal's mother left him, she broke his heart, and he has never recovered. He suffers in silence and throws himself into his work, which makes him into a good man and a good preacher, but not an ideal father to Opal. Opal has a complicated relationship with her father, but Winn-Dixie's new presence in their home lets him open up and see what his distance was doing to his daughter.
Gloria Dump is an old woman who becomes one of Opal and Winn-Dixie's closest friends. She lives in an old and eerie house surrounded by thick, unkempt vegetation. Because of the appearance of her home, a myth about her being a witch emerged in town, believed in particular by neighborhood children. With the help of Winn-Dixie, Opal finds that she is actually a kind lady with a self-deprecating sense of humor. Gloria fills some of the hole that Opal's mother left behind by listening to all of Opal's stories and offering wise advice. Gloria teaches Opal important lessons about acceptance, life, and love. She encourages Opal to accept the mistakes she makes and teaches her that the decisions one makes after the mistakes are what define them.
Miss Franny Block
Miss Franny Block is the town librarian and owner of the town library. Miss Franny is a lonely woman who has not created any new memories, but has instead spent her life hoarding old ones. When Winn-Dixie comes into her library, she thinks he is a bear, and this triggers a traumatic memory she has about a previous time a bear wandered into the library. The story of that encounter is the first of many that she shares with Opal and Winn-Dixie, who become regulars at the library. Miss. Franny teaches Opal many different lessons through her stories, as when she teaches Opal the concept of melancholy through a story about her great-grandfather.
Otis is a shy and quiet pet-shop manager. He hires Opal in his store when Winn-Dixie begs for an opportunity for Opal to work where Winn-Dixie can be let off the leash and collar. Otis teaches Opal that people aren't always what they seem to be. Otis keeps to himself and avoids the presence of humans because of social anxiety. He deals with his social phobia by playing music, but this has contributed to a bad reputation in town. Opal and Winn-Dixie help Otis get over his fear of human interaction and overcome his anxiety.
Sweetie Pie Thomas
Sweetie Pie Thomas is a little girl who befriends Opal and Winn-Dixie. Sweetie Pie is outgoing. She is full of excitement and love. Because she is one of the first friends Opal makes in town, she brings a lonely Opal a lot of happiness. She is an innocent and accepting character.
Dunlap and Stevie Dewberry are brothers who are ten and nine years old, respectively. Early in the book, the Dewberry brothers are portrayed as rude bullies, and Opal dislikes them. But when Opal later opens up to them, she learns that they just wanted to be friends with her. Although they are immature, they are ultimately harmless and friendly children.
Amanda is a town local who Opal describes as having a pinched-up face. Opal thinks Amanda is stuck up and rude, and she does not like Amanda. Opal eventually learns that Amanda's younger brother Carson had died the year before. Opal realizes that Amanda has been grieving, and her pinched face was a reflection of how she felt within. Amanda's harsh exterior hid the deep pain and sadness she held within.
Because of Winn-Dixie Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Because of Winn-Dixie is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
India Opal Buloni is ten-years-old. She lives with her father, a minister, and continues to yearn for the mother who left when she was three. Opal is loving and optimistic, innocent and honest. When Winn-Dixie comes into her life, she shows she's...