Because of Winn-Dixie

Because of Winn-Dixie Summary and Analysis of Chapters 15-20


The air-conditioning unit in the library doesn’t work very well, and Winn-Dixie develops a habit of hogging the library’s only fan. Sometimes, as Miss Franny Block is telling a story, she will have a fit, where she will forget what she is saying and “just stop and start to shake like a little leaf” (99). In these moments, Winn-Dixie will move to sit beside her and protect her until she is well again. This reminds Opal of how she has comforted Winn-Dixie and tried to protect him from his fear throughout many thunderstorms that summer. She wonders who protects Gloria Dump from “those ghosts chattering about the things she had done wrong,” and determines that she will do so by reading her a book. Miss Franny Block suggests Gone with the Wind, a novel about the Civil War. The suggestion prompts Miss Franny Block to tell the story of her great-grandfather, who fought in the Civil War when he was a little boy. As she begins, Amanda Wilkinson comes into the library and, after some prompting, decides to also listen to the story.

Littmus W. Block is Miss Franny Block’s great-grandfather. He was just a boy when the Civil War began, but he enlists in the war because he can’t bear to see the South lose. He thinks joining the war is a grand endeavor, and “went off to be a hero,” but he “soon found out the truth”: that war is terrible (105). As they listen to the story, Opal and Amanda begin to relate to each other, as neither can imagine what the war was like. As the story progresses, Amanda moves from her position standing at Miss Franny Block’s desk and sits down next to Opal. They learn that after the war Littmus walked home to find a house burned down and all of his family dead. Amanda and Opal agree that the story is very sad, and Opal is eager to learn how he “survived after losing everything he loved” (108).

When Littmus arrives home and finds his house and family gone, he cries for a long time. Eventually, he craves something sweet and he makes a decision: “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” (111). He goes to Florida and builds a candy factory. In that factory, Littmus invents the Littmus Lozenge, “a candy that was famous the world over” (111). Opal and Amanda have never heard of the candy, so Miss Franny Block shares a piece with each of them and Winn-Dixie, too. The candy is good: “It tasted like root beer and strawberry and something else I didn’t have a name for, something that made me feel kind of sad” (113). When Amanda mentions feeling the same way to Miss Franny Block, she tells the girls that there is a secret ingredient in the candies: sorrow.

Opal tells Amanda and Miss Franny Block what the lozenge makes her remember, which is the sadness of saying goodbye to her friends and the fact that her mother left her when she was so small. Amanda tells the room that the candy makes her miss Carson, and then she hurriedly leaves the library. Opal asks Miss Franny who Carson is, but Miss Franny Block only responds by shaking her head and lamenting that it is “a sorrow-filled world” (114). Opal leaves the library, but not before taking candies for her friends. She also checks out Gone with the Wind to read to Gloria. As she heads to Gloria's home, she decides to wave at the Dewberry brothers instead of sticking her tongue out at them. She is cheered when they wave back.

Opal takes the candy to Gloria, who says it tastes sweet but also like people leaving. Afterward, she reads Gloria Dump the first chapter of Gone with the Wind. That night, Opal gives her father a candy too. The preacher tells Opal that the candy tastes of “melancholy,” which makes him think of Opal’s mother. The preacher changes the subject to Stevie Dewberry, who told his mother that Opal called him a “bald-headed baby” (123). The preacher encourages Opal to play nice with Stevie and Dunlap, as he thinks they are trying to become friends with Opal and don’t know how. Opal asks her father if he knew who Carson was, and the preacher tells Opal that Amanda had a five-year-old brother who died the previous year.

The next day, Opal takes the candy to Otis. After eating it, Otis cries and thanks Opal. He tells her the candy reminds him of being in jail, which prompts Opal to ask why Otis was arrested. Otis tells Opal that he isn’t a dangerous man, just a lonely one. He tells her that he would play music on the street before he was arrested, and that one day the cops approached him to stop because he was collecting tips for the performance and that was illegal. He didn’t want to stop playing his guitar, so he hit the policemen attempting to apprehend him. When Otis got out of jail, Gertrude offered him the job at her store because she heard his story on the news and felt bad for him. Opal spends extra time cleaning the shop that day so that she might be able to provide more companionship to Otis.

After work, Opal goes to Gloria Dump’s home, where she tells Gloria what she has learned about Otis. Gloria thinks the news is funny because it doesn’t match his reputation as a criminal. She tells Opal that “sometimes things are so sad they get to be funny” (133). Opal then tells Gloria that she has found out that Amanda lost her younger brother the previous year, which is why she is so pinched faced. She wonders if everyone is missing somebody.

Opal reads Gloria Dump the second chapter of Gone with the Wind. From the book, Opal gets the idea to throw a party where Otis can play his guitar. She asks Gloria if they can host in her yard, and when the older woman agrees she hugs Gloria tight. Gloria Dump’s only requirement is that Opal invite Stevie and Dunlap to the party too. At Miss Franny Block's request, Opal invites Amanda, too.


As Opal learns more about friendship through Winn-Dixie, she learns about the power that friends have to protect each other from pain and fear. When Miss Franny Block becomes ill, Winn-Dixie protects the woman by standing near her and shielding her with his body. This reminds Opal of the thunderstorms, during which she has gotten skilled at comforting Winn-Dixie by holding on to Winn-Dixie and rocking and whispering to him. Opal starts to receive protection from her new friends, too. When Opal becomes nervous about Winn-Dixie hogging the fan and going bald by its air, Miss Franny Block reassures her. She consistently makes Opal feel welcome in her library. Opal also begins to protect her new friends. When she learns how lonely Otis is, she resolves to spend more time in the store. She also decides to start reading to Gloria, who can't read for herself.

In telling Amanda and Opal about Littmus Lozenges, Miss Franny Block also teaches them about the Civil War. Opal isn't as interested in history as Amanda is. At one point, she doesn't know what Fort Sumter is but shrugs off Amanda's explanation. The setting of the book is called into play, as Miss Franny Block teaches Opal and Amanda that the Civil War wasn't about slavery but about states' rights, something that is taught in the South of the country but not the North. Opal and Amanda learn a lot about what it was like to be a soldier during the war. Although they don't know much about the war themselves, both Opal and Amanda are able to empathize with the feeling of loss that Littmus endures.

As the summer progresses, and Opal's relationships become closer, Opal begins to accept wisdom from the two older women in her life. Miss Franny Block teaches Opal about the realities of war. During her story, Miss Franny Block tells the girls that war is hell. When Amanda protests and says that hell is a bad word, Miss Franny Block replies that war should be one too. Miss Franny Block teaches Amanda and Opal that even though war is terrible, it is often glorified, despite history's lessons to the contrary. Opal also gains a lot of insight from Gloria. The woman teaches Opal that it is okay to sometimes laugh at the most horrible parts of the world. After telling Gloria about Amanda's little brother, Opal asks if everyone is missing somebody, Gloria responds that she believes that "the whole world has an aching heart" (134). Through Gloria, Opal learns that pain is not an abnormal experience, but also that it is something that can be faced.

Opal's relationship with Amanda is as strained as her relationship with the Dewberry brothers. Opal thinks that Amanda is mean. She takes offense to the other girl's pinched face and standoffish demeanor. But when Miss Franny Block tells them both the story of her great grandfather, they begin to mirror each other and the beginning of a bond is created between them. At first, Opal is resistant to empathizing with Amanda. When Amanda says that the candy makes her feel sad, Opal wonders what Amanda has to be sad about: "She wasn't new to town. She had a mama and a daddy. I had seen her with them in church" (114). Miss Franny Block tells the girls that if they taste sorrow in the candies then they have both had their share of sadness. Once Opal learns the truth about Amanda, she is more willing to befriend the girl. When she invites Amanda to her party, Amanda is nervous but responds yes, she would love to go.

The Littmus Lozenge is the final item of note of this section. The candy is a mixture of sweet and sad, and it inspires a unique reaction in each of the people who try it. It reminds Opal of all the people she has lost in her life. The preacher also thinks about Opal's mom when he eats his candy. He gets quiet after doing so and pulls away from his daughter. Gloria Dump thinks about people leaving, and Sweetie Pie thinks about not having a dog. Sweetie Pie almost immediately spits the candy out. The candy reminds Otis about being in jail. He cries and thanks Opal for sharing it with him. By taking note of how her different friends reacted to the candy, Opal begins to make sense of life: "I lay there and thought how life was like a Littmus Lozenge, how the sweet and the sad were all mixed up together and how hard it was to separate them out" (25). Opal finds this to be confusing.