And then I figured that the dog was probably just like everybody else in the world, that he would want to get called by a name, only I didn't know what his name was, so I just said the first thing that came into my head. I said, "Here, Winn-Dixie."
Opal is recounting the moment that she claimed Winn-Dixie as hers and named him. He is named after the supermarket that they are standing in. This passage explains the strange nature of Winn-Dixie's name as well as introduces the way that Opal thinks about and relates to Winn-Dixie not as a dog but as a person.
"Winn-Dixie looked straight at me when I said that to him, like he was feeling relieved to finally have somebody understand his situation. I nodded my head at him and went on talking."
This passage tells of the bond that has formed between Opal and Winn-Dixie. The two creatures need each other for both companionship and protection. When Opal tells Winn-Dixie how the two of them are similar, she personifies the dog and interprets his facial expressions for the first time. She will continue to relate to Winn-Dixie this way throughout the rest of the novel, and other characters will pick up this habit of personifying the dog.
"I went right back to my room and wrote down all ten things that the preacher had told me. I wrote them down just the way he said them to me so that I wouldn't forget them, and then I read them out loud to Winn-Dixie until I had them memorized. I wanted to know those ten things inside and out. That way, if my mama ever came back, I could recognize her, and I would be able to grab her and hold her tight and not let her get away from me again."
Opal persuades her father to tell her ten things about her mother, one for every year she has been alive. Opal can't remember anything about her mother so she holds on tightly to this new information as if this will bring her mother closer again. Opal hopes that her mother will one day return and that she will be able to experience her family whole once again. By the end of the novel, Opal learns that knowing ten facts about someone is different from knowing them, and she accepts that she will never have enough of her mother.
"But in the meantime, you got to remember, you can't always judge people by the things they done. You got to judge them by what they are doing now."
Gloria has just shown Opal her mistake tree, adorned with hanging bottles to remind her of the things she has done wrong. Opal can't believe that the kind older woman has ever done anything wrong in her life. Gloria explains that we can live good lives, even if our past is full of mistakes. This is an important lesson for Opal to learn, and it impacts her relationship with Otis, who is a kind and gentle man even though he has been to jail.
"And because Winn-Dixie was looking up at her like she was the best thing he has ever seen, and because the peanut-butter sandwich has been so good, and because I had been waiting a long time to tell some person everything about me, I did."
Opal is learning how to make friends through Winn-Dixie's influence. She has been so lonely, and Gloria Dump offers Opal both a friend and a maternal figure. In this passage, Gloria Dump teaches Opal an important lesson about connection beyond appearances.
"All of a sudden it was hard for me to talk. I loved the preacher so much. I loved him because he loved Winn-Dixie. I loved him because he was going to forgive Winn-Dixie for being afraid. But most of all, I loved him for putting his arms around Winn-Dixie like that, like he was already trying to keep him safe."
Slowly, Winn-Dixie is repairing Opal's relationship with her father. His easy forgiveness of Winn-Dixie makes Opal feel a burst of affection for her father, who has been withdrawn ever since her mother left. By taking care of Winn-Dixie, the preacher is also showing his daughter love and protection.
"I stayed where I was and studied the tree. I wondered if my mama, wherever she was, had a tree full of bottles; and I wondered if I was a ghost to her, the same way she sometimes seemed like a ghost to me"
When Opal sees Gloria Dump's tree, she learns that she can let go of pain from the past. Gloria shows her that everything she regrets can be acknowledged and let go of. She also realizes that her mother is a real person, just like Gloria. The fact that they both struggled with substance abuse helps Opal make this connection.
"Winn-Dixie started to snore, and I nudged him with my foot to try to make him quit. I wanted to hear the rest of the story. It was important to me to hear how Littmus survived after losing everything he loved."
When Opal learns Littmus' story, she immediately empathizes with the man who lost everything and came home to find his family gone. Through his story, Opal learns about life after loss. His story is one she carries with her for the rest of the novel.
"I could see the preacher getting further and further away. He was hunching up his shoulders and lowering his chin and getting ready to pull his head inside his shell."
Opal is beginning to be more frustrated by her father's tendency to withdraw when he is sad. She feels distant from him when he is unable to be vulnerable with his daughter about the pain he is feeling. At the climax of the novel, Opal finally addresses this with her father, and he is able to make a change for the benefit of his daughter.
"There ain't no way you can hold on to something that wants to go, you understand? You can only love what you got while you got it."
When Opal thinks Winn-Dixie has been lost, she is devastated. She is ready to do whatever she has to do in order to save her dog. Gloria Dump takes the opportunity to teach Opal an important lesson about letting go. Just because the things we love leave, doesn't take away from the fact of our loving them. This is an important lesson for Opal in the journey of letting her mom go.
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...