"Because of Winn-Dixie" is a novel about friendship. It opens on a lonely girl named Opal who finds a kindred soul in a stray dog and takes him home. Their friendship is the catalyst for the rest of the novel, during which Opal and Winn-Dixie go on numerous adventures and make even more friends. Winn-Dixie and Opal keep each other safe and happy, and their bond eventually heals Opal of her pain about the fact that her mother left her. Through Winn-Dixie, Opal makes many friends, including Gloria Dump, Miss Franny Block, Otis, Sweetie Pie Thomas, and the Dewberry brothers. Everyone benefits from the relationships she forms. Gloria Dump receives companionship and finds someone to read to her. Miss Franny Block steps out of her sheltered life and finds someone to tell all of her stories to. Otis is able to work on his social anxiety and gains the confidence to sing for other people again. Friendship is shown to be a source of healing and happiness in this book.
Miss Franny Block tells Opal and Winn-Dixie the tale of her great-grandfather Littmus W. Block, who returned from the Civil War to find his family completely gone. Overcome by grief from his loss, Littmus decided to bring some sweetness into the world and so created 'Littmus Lozenges.' These candies taste of a combination of sweetness and sorrow and are said to capture the feeling of melancholy. When Opal eats one of the candies, she is overcome by this feeling of sadness, and it makes her think of her mother. We see that everyone has a memory or experience that they associate with this feeling, but that they are also grateful for the opportunity to feel melancholy that the candy creates. Opal learns the definition of the word melancholy through a conversation with her father about the candy, and this word helps her understand her own mental state.
Opal and Winn-Dixie form an instant connection because they are both longing for a friend and protector. Opal can tell that Winn-Dixie knows what it is like to be abandoned. They help each other feel less lonely. Throughout the story, they help each other heal and make connections with other people who are also afflicted with loneliness. The preacher, for example, is heartbroken and coping by throwing himself into his work. He pulls away from all other people in an effort to protect himself from further heartbreak. Otis retreats into isolation after he is arrested. Amanda is so overcome by grief that she rejects the rest of the world. The garden party is significant because it is a sign of a community that none of the characters had before Opal and Winn-Dixie's influences on their lives. Because of the influence of the kind girl and her dog, they are given the confidence to step out of their isolation and accept human companionship.
Because of Winn-Dixie is, in many ways, a novel about people who aren't what they seem. Opal learns that there is often more than meets the eye. When Opal learns that her shy, quiet boss Otis is an ex-convict, she immediately thinks that she should be afraid of him. Gloria Dump teaches her that one can't always judge people by what they have done, but should rather judge them based upon what they do. This helps Opal realize that Otis is a kind-hearted person who poses no threat to her. This theme of judging others also appears in Opal's relationship with Amanda Wilkinson. Opal does not initially like Amanda, who she thinks has a pinched face and a bad attitude. When Opal learns that Amanda's harsh mannerisms are a reflection of her pain and sadness about the death of her little brother, Opal realizes she has misjudged Amanda and makes an effort to befriend her.
There are many suffering souls in the novel. All of the characters struggle through something, but they are all able to overcome their problems with the help of love and compassion. Winn-Dixie teaches Opal how to love unconditionally by offering Opal companionship and understanding. His love gives Opal the confidence to make new friends. It also gives her the confidence to fix her relationship with the preacher. Opal loves her father and knows her father loves her, but they are both so broken-hearted about the loss of her mother that they are unable to show each other this love to its fullest extent.
Longing is another important theme in the novel. It is distinct from loneliness, which can be fixed with the acquisition of a new friend. Longing is specific to an item or a person lost, and can only be soothed by that which is longed for. Opal longs for her mother for the entire novel. It is a burden she carries and that causes her a significant amount of distress. She considers her mother's absence often and uses it to guide her decisions, trying to act in ways she thinks her mother might have. Opal relates everything new she learns to her mother, and she continually imagines telling her all about her new life and friends. Eventually, Opal realizes that everyone is longing for something or someone. As Gloria Dump tells her, "I believe, sometimes, that the whole world has an aching heart" (134).
Seeing with one's Heart
Through Opal's relationship with Gloria Dump, she learns that the most accurate estimation of a person's character comes from their inner selves. During their first encounter, Gloria Dump, who is blind, asks to hear Opal's story, so that she might be able to see Opal "with her heart." This philosophy allows Opal to make friends with people a young girl wouldn't normally befriend, like two older women, an ex-convict, and a five-year-old.
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...