Analysis Of The Main Themes In Where The Red Fern Grows By Wilson Rawls

August 5, 2021 by Essay Writer

In Wilson Rawls novel, Where the Red Fern Grows, several underlying themes construct a timeless, American classic. The themes of determination, love, and sacrifice each come together to impact the audience in an emotional way. In the novel, the author presents a young boy who is determined to own two hound dogs. Additionally, Billy demonstrates love and sacrifice when he is cared for his two beloved dogs. Billy, who is just a small boy, shows a sense of selfless sacrifice and love and exudes a strong sense of determination to obtain the hound dogs. The author shows that through determination, anyone can achieve their goals and persevere.

Determination can be defined as a characteristic of being consistent and not even considering “failing” as an option. The theme of determination, prevalent throughout the novel, began when Billy became interested in hound dogs. Billy was eager to save enough money to purchase the dogs and was willing to work any job he got offered. After two years of hard work, Billy finally saved enough money to buy two hound dogs. Not only was Billy determined to acquire the dogs, he was also determined to show them loyalty and love. “During the dogs’ first hunting trip, a raccoon sprints up and hides in a big sycamore tree”. “Due to the ginormous size of the tree, Billy wanted to give up and forget about the raccoon”. “He then starts to tell his dogs that there’s nothing that can be done; however, he changed his mind when he saw the dog’s sad expression”. These quotes demonstrate how much Billy truly cared for his dogs. He did not want them to put themselves in any type of danger where they could get hurt. In addition to Billy, the dogs also demonstrated determination. Rawls writes, “My hounds made no move to follow. They started whining. Old Dan reared up, placed his front paw on the trunk, and started bawling. Little Ann came to me. She reared up and started licking my hands”. This quote shows that Old Dan and Little Ann were not going to let any obstacles stand in the way of the raccoon.

Another example determination of determination is through Billy’s grandfather. He helps Billy by pushing him along the way. Rawls writes, “’Hello! How are you gettin’ along?’ he boomed. ‘Not so good, Grandpa,’ I said. ‘I don’t think I can cut it down. It’s just too big. I guess I’ll have to give up.’ ‘Give up!’ Grandpa barked. ‘Now I don’t want to hear you say that. No, sir, that’s the last thing I want to hear. Don’t ever start anything you can’t finish’”. To show his dogs and his grandfather his relentless determination, he decided to cut down the big sycamore tree. The author states, “With tears in my eyes, I looked again at the big sycamore. A wave of anger came over me. Gritting my teeth, I said, ‘I don’t care how big you are, I’m not going to let my dogs down. I told them if they put a coon in a tree I would do the rest and I’m going to. I’m going to cut you down. I don’t care if it takes me a whole year’”. Because the dogs witnessed Billy’s determination, they were able to exhibit determination in their lives and actions. Billy is guided by his Grandpa’s advice and willingness to not let him give up, which shows in the novel how determination is a characteristic that has been passed down from generation to generation in the boy’s family. Billy not only shows determination, but he shows a great sense of love.

Billy first showed his immensely strong love for his hounds when they were travelling back from Tahlequah and heard a mountain lion. Billy felt very defensive over his hounds, so he built a fire to keep the mountain lion aw. Rawls writes, “I was ready to die for my dogs” (48). Billy would do anything for his dogs, even if it meant putting his own life in danger. The theme of love was not only exhibited in Billy, but in his family too. Billy and his sisters did not grow up with a lot of opportunities, such as education, so in order for them to have a better life, they were forced to move. Billy’s father worked extremely hard to earn enough money to move him and his family into town, so they can have a chance for a better life. The author writes, “In a sober voice my father said, “Some day you may have to live in town. Your mother and I don’t intend to live in these hills all our lives. It’s no place to raise a family. A man’s children should have an education. They should get out and see the world and meet people’”. Billy’s mom also shows a great amount of care and love for Billy. Rawls states, “Mama said in a low voice, ‘I’ll pray every day and night for that day to come. I don’t want you children to grow up without an education, not even knowing what a bottle of soda pop is, or ever seeing the inside of a schoolhouse. I don’t think I could stand that. I’ll just keep praying and some day the good Lord may answer my prayer’”. His parents exhibited love when they moved houses to provide a better future for their children. They thought not primarily about themselves, but for the good of their children. While the theme of love was portrayed frequently throughout the novel, the theme of sacrifice is similarly shown.

Contributing to the themes of love and determination, the theme of sacrifice is evident throughout the novel by a variety of characters. At the beginning of the novel, Billy is willing to make a big sacrifice. Rawls writes, “After thinking it over, I figured out a way to help. Even though it was a great sacrifice, I told Papa I had decided I didn’t want tow hounds. One would be enough”. The main character realized that he would be putting his family in a rough spot if he asked for two dogs, so he altered his plans to accommodate for his family. This is a big sacrifice taken by such a young child. Billy also sacrifices his time to make sure he gets a raccoon skin in order to train his dogs how to hunt. Rawls writes, “All through that summer and into the late fall the training went on”. Billy could have used his time for himself, but he instead used it to help out Old Dan and Little Ann. Sacrifice is also shown through Billy’s dogs, Old Dan and Little Ann, who puts their lives on the line for Billy in a fight against a mountain lion. Rawls writes, “Hearing a noise from the bed, I looked back. The girl pup, hearing the commotion, had gotten up and joined the boy dogs. They were sitting side by side with their bodies stiff and rigid. Their beady little eyes bored into the darkness beyond the cave. The moist tips of their little black noses wiggled and twisted as if trying to catch a scent”. This shows that Billy’s dogs were willing to risk themselves for their owner. Lastly, Billy’s dad helps Billy hunt rather than working around their farm. Rawls states, “The next day Papa had to go to the store. Late that evening I saw him coming back. As fast as I could, I ran to meet him, expecting a sack of candy. Instead he handed me three small steel traps. He showed me how to set them by mashing the spring down with my foot, and how to work the trigger”. Billy’s father cares so much about him that he would sacrifice his time and his opportunities to make money to help Billy with what he loves most, hunting. These examples of selfless sacrifices are what make up each character.

While there are many underlying themes in Where the Red Fern Grows, the themes of determination, love, and sacrifice are the most prominent. Billy, through hard work and determination, eventually owns two hound dogs. It is then that he shows his selfless sacrifice and fervent love for his dogs. Any person who reads this novel can take away 3 important messages: If you are determined and set your mind to a specific goal, you will achieve it, if you love you will receive love back, and sacrifices will lead to a promising outcome.

Read more