Why do you think Opal is drawn to people who seem ostracized or lonely?
Opal seems to be especially drawn to lonely people. This is because she herself has suffered loss, and she is incredibly lonely. She feels a kinship with people who are also starved for companionship. As a newcomer in town, she is also drawn to outsiders, with whom it might be easier to build a relationship. Opal is kind and nonjudgmental, which helps her ignore the community's opinions about her new friends. She is drawn to people that she can sympathize with, and this helps her make friends with even the people she initially disliked, such as Amanda.
How does Winn-Dixie give Opal confidence to make friends?
Winn-Dixie is an outgoing and friendly creature. He creates opportunities for Opal to make friends by leading her to new places, as he did when he ran into Gloria Dump's yard. Opal cares a lot about Winn-Dixie's needs, and in learning to care for the dog, she learns to care for herself. Winn-Dixie's love for Opal gives her the confidence to share herself with other people and open herself up to their love. Winn-Dixie also coaxes a softer and more approachable side out of the preacher, which makes Opal see him differently and feel more affection toward him.
Why does Opal believe her father is partly to blame for her mother's leaving?
Opal doesn't realize how deeply her father loves her. This is because he has retreated into himself ever since her mother left. In doing so, he left his daughter starved for his attention and care. She feels as though he is more devoted to being a preacher than he is to being her father. She believes that this character trait is what drove her mother away. She believes that he did not put up a fight in order to get her mother to stay. By the end of the novel, Opal realizes this is not true, and that her father doesn't talk about her mother simply because he is in pain. The preacher had actually desperately tried to get Opal's mother to stay.
How do Opal and Winn-Dixie's stories parallel each other? How do they differ?
Opal and Winn-Dixie are both motherless and looking for friends. Both struggle with being left behind. Both are kind and affectionate. When they are invited into places, Opal must go in first and pave the way for Winn-Dixie's entrance. Once Winn-Dixie enters a new place, he knows instinctually who he will like and who he won't like, while Opal has to learn more about a person before she makes a judgment about them. Still, Opal gains as much as Winn-Dixie does through every encounter with a new person, be it affection or a peanut butter sandwich.
How is Opal's relationship with Gloria Dump different from the other relationships she makes in Naomi?
Gloria Dump comes to take on a maternal role in Opal's life. Not only is she a wise, older woman, but she has lived through loss and addiction, which makes her particularly suited to helping Opal through missing her mother. She is able to see through Opal's critical depictions of the Dewberry brothers, and she encourages the three kids to become friends. When Winn-Dixie goes missing during the party, it is Gloria Dump who offers Opal a lesson about letting go of those who leave us. Over the course of the novel, she comes to take on an important role in Opal's life, much like that of a mother or grandmother.