Study Guide

Because of Winn-Dixie

by Kate DiCamillo

Because of Winn-Dixie Summary

Overview

Because of Winn-Dixie is a story about a girl and her dog and about the search for what really matters in life. It is also a story...

(The entire section is 211 words.)

Because of Winn-Dixie Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1 Summary

One summer, the local preacher sends his daughter, India Opal Buloni, to the grocery store to buy macaroni and cheese, white rice, and two tomatoes. Instead, she comes home with a big, ugly dog. Opal (as her father always calls her) goes to the Winn-Dixie grocery store and is walking into the produce section when she nearly bumps into the store manager. He is screaming, waving his arms around, and shouting, “Who let a dirty dog in here?” But when Opal looks around, she does not see a dog; she only sees vegetables rolling around on the floor. As the manager keeps shouting, more and more Winn-Dixie employees join his side and wave their hands around too.

Then the dog comes running around the corner, his tongue hanging out and his tail wagging. The dog skids to a stop and looks up at Opal. She thinks he is smiling as he pulls back his lips, revealing his teeth. The dog gets so happy that he wags his tail hard and knocks a pile of oranges off the display. To the dismay of the manager, the oranges mingle with the vegetables already on the floor, and he calls for someone to remove the dog from the store. But the dog is overjoyed and runs up to the manager to look him in the eye and thank him for the good time in the store. Once the dog is on his hind legs, the manager tumbles to the floor. Exasperated, the manager cries, and out of concern, the dog licks his face.

When the manager asks someone to call the pound to remove the dog, Opal is moved to claim the dog as her own. She tells the manager the dog belongs to her, and all the Winn-Dixie employees stare at her. Opal realizes that she has done something stupid, but she cannot bear to see the dog taken to the pound. The dog looks at Opal, and she makes up a name for him, “Winn-Dixie.” The manager scolds Opal and tells her that dogs do not belong in grocery stores, and Opal promises it will not happen again.

Opal leaves the grocery store with her new dog, Winn-Dixie. Once outside, Opal checks the dog and sees that he is skinny and is missing hair in patches. Then Winn-Dixie smiles his smile again and sneezes. Opal thinks it is hard not to love a dog who has a sense of humor, and she takes Winn-Dixie home to see what her father will make of him.

Chapter 2 Summary

Opal’s father spends a lot of time preaching, so much so that Opal has come to think of her father as “the preacher.” He and Opal have only recently moved to Naomi, Florida, so he can be the new preacher at the Open Arms Baptist Church. Opal’s father has traveled far and wide; before his daughter was born, he was a missionary in India. He named his daughter after this land and gave her the middle name Opal after his mother, whom he loved. Opal tells all this to Winn-Dixie as they walk home from the grocery store, and she also tells the dog that her father’s life is consumed by sermons, prayers, and the suffering of people. He is the kind of man who never has time to go to the grocery store. Opal reasons that since Winn-Dixie is obviously a suffering dog, her father will have a kind heart and accept him into their home. At this, Winn-Dixie wags his tail, and Opal notices that he is limping and smelly. Even though he is ugly, Opal loves Winn-Dixie with all her heart.

When the pair arrives at the Friendly Corners Trailer Park, Opal instructs Winn-Dixie to behave because it is an “adults only” trailer park; and Opal only gets to live there because she is a quiet kid, “an exception” according to Mr. Alfred, the trailer park manager. Opal tells Winn-Dixe that he must act like an exception, too, and not pick any fights with the other animals in the trailer park.

Outside Opal’s trailer, she tells Winn-Dixie to sit, and he obeys. Opal goes inside and approaches her father, reminding him that he has always taught her to help those less fortunate than they are. She tells him that she has found a “Less Fortunate” at the grocery store and asks if he can stay with the family for a while. The preacher questions his daughter, and Opal tells her father that she has found a dog. Her father immediately says they do not need a dog, but Opal claims that the dog needs her. She calls Winn-Dixie into the trailer, and the dog walks right over to Opal’s father and puts his head in the preacher’s lap. The preacher’s nose wrinkles, and he looks at the matted hair and bald spots on the dog. Winn-Dixie smiles at the preacher and then sneezes, blowing the preacher’s papers to the floor. Opal’s father says that the dog is surely a stray and a less fortunate, so he offers Winn-Dixie a home.

Chapter 3 Summary

Right away, Opal cleans up Winn-Dixie. First she gives the dog a bath using the garden hose and baby shampoo. Winn-Dixie tolerates the bath, but he obviously does not like it—he does not wag his tail or smile the entire time. Opal dries him off and uses her hairbrush to work through Winn-Dixie’s matted fur. The dog wiggles his back, enjoying the attention.

While she cleans up the dog, Opal talks to Winn-Dixie about her family. She tells him that she has no other family besides the preacher—her mother left when she was three years old. She also tells Winn-Dixie that she does not have any friends because she had to leave them all behind when she and the preacher left Watley to come to Naomi. Opal reckons that she and Winn-Dixie are kind of like orphans. Winn-Dixie looks at Opal and behaves as if he understands her exact meaning. Opal then confesses that she has been thinking a lot about her mother since she and the preacher moved to Naomi. She knows little about her mother because the preacher does not speak of her, but she overheard the ladies gossiping at church so now she knows her father still loves her mother and hopes she will return. Opal wants to ask her father questions about her mother, but she is afraid that he will be mad at her. Winn-Dixie looks hard at Opal, and she thinks the dog is suggesting that she ask the preacher about her mother. The dog sneezes in confirmation.

When Opal is finished cleaning up Winn-Dixie, his fur shines. Of course he still has bald spots, but he smells nice and feels soft to the touch. Opal tries to brush his teeth, but any attempt causes him to sneeze in fits, so Opal settles that the dog just has yellow teeth. His ribs are still visible, but Opal promises to feed him nice meals to fatten him up.

She takes the dog to see her father, and the preacher claims that Winn-Dixie is so handsome. The dog again puts his head in the preacher’s lap, and the preacher pets him and scratches his head. Opal then tells her father that she and Winn-Dixie have had a little talk and they have decided that since Opal is ten years old, her father should tell her ten things about her mother. Winn-Dixie looks up at the preacher and nudges him with his nose. The preacher tells Opal to sit, and he consents to tell her just ten things about her mama.

Chapter 4 Summary

Opal, her father, and Winn-Dixie settle on the couch, and the preacher proceeds to tell Opal ten things about her mother. The first is that Opal’s mother could make anyone laugh. Second, she had red hair and freckles. Opal asks whether her own red hair and freckles are like her mother’s, and her father says they are. Third, Opal’s mother liked to plant things; the preacher jokes that Opal’s mother could plant a tire in the ground and grow a car. At this, Winn-Dixie chews on his paw, and Opal taps him to make him stop. Fourth, Opal’s mother was a fast runner, and one could not let her get a head start unless he surely wanted to be the loser in the race. Opal is also a fast runner. Back in Watley, she beat a boy named Liam Fullerton in a race, but because he was a sore loser, he claimed that boys and girls should not race each other. Fifth, Opal’s mother was a really bad cook who could not boil water or even open a can of beans. She also did not know what to do with meat. When the preacher gets to six, he rubs his nose and looks up at the ceiling, and then he tells Opal that her mother loved stories and that she could listen to stories all day, especially ones that made her laugh. Seventh, Opal’s mother loved looking at the constellations in the night sky; she never tired of looking at them.

The preacher begins offering more serious details about Opal’s mother. He tells Opal that, eighth, her mother hated being a preacher’s wife because she felt like the ladies at church criticized her all the time. The ladies judged her hair and her singing. Ninth, Opal’s mother loved to drink, which made her and the preacher fight often. The preacher lets out a long sigh and tells Opal that, ten, her mother loved her very much. Both Opal and the preacher acknowledge that although she loved Opal, her mother still packed her bags and left them.

Opal then goes to her bedroom along with Winn-Dixie and writes down all ten things so she will never forget them. Opal reads the list over and over to Winn-Dixie so she can memorize all ten things. She wants to make sure that if her mother ever returns, she will be able to tell her mother all these things so her mother will not leave again.

Chapter 5 Summary

Opal and the preacher soon learn that Winn-Dixie does not like being left alone. If they leave him alone inside their trailer, he snatches all the cushions off the couch and takes the toilet paper off the roll. So they begin tying him up outside the trailer, but Winn-Dixie howls so loudly that he makes a neighbor’s dog begin howling too. Opal says that this is the kind of noise that is not allowed in the adults-only trailer park, so she convinces the preacher to take Winn-Dixie wherever they go. She reckons that Winn-Dixie feels like his heart is empty when he gets left alone, so the preacher submits, and Winn-Dixie goes with them everywhere, even to church.

The Open Arms Baptist Church is unlike any other. The...

(The entire section is 481 words.)

Chapter 6 Summary

That summer, Opal spends a lot of time at the local library to relieve her loneliness. The Herman W. Block Memorial Library is just a small house full of books, not a large, impressive place like other libraries. It is run by a little old lady named Miss Franny Block. Miss Block is the first friend Opal makes in Naomi.

Opal gets to know Miss Block through an incident created by Winn-Dixie. Still feeling broken-hearted at being left alone, the dog does not like going to the library because he cannot go inside while Opal is inside hunting through the shelves. Opal teaches Winn-Dixie how to stand on his hind legs outside the library’s window so he can still see her while she roams the aisles looking for books. This calms...

(The entire section is 406 words.)

Chapter 7 Summary

Miss Franny Block begins her story by telling Opal that back when she was a child, Florida was a wild place full of wild men, women, and animals. Franny’s father, Mr. Herman W. Block, asked his daughter what she would like to have for her birthday. Franny’s father was a rich man and promised to get her anything she wanted. So Franny told her father that she wanted her own small library. Franny loved books and loved to read, and she wanted to share her books with other people. So her father built a small house and filled it with books, and Franny became a young librarian.

Miss Block tells Opal that when she was a little girl, she thought she knew the answers to everything. She would sit at her desk in the library...

(The entire section is 543 words.)

Chapter 8 Summary

Under Opal’s care, Winn-Dixie begins to look more healthy: his bald spots fill in, his fur stays shiny, and he loses his limp. The dog appears proud to look like he belongs to somebody instead of looking like a stray. To complete the look, Opal thinks Winn-Dixie should have a collar and leash, so she goes to Gertrude’s Pets, where there are animals and supplies of all types. She finds a handsome red leather collar and leash that she thinks will be just perfect for Winn-Dixie. But dogs are not allowed inside the pet shop, so Opal holds up the collar and leash to the window so Winn-Dixie can see what she has found. Winn-Dixie smiles, sneezes, and furiously wags his tail at the sight of the collar and leash, and Opal knows he...

(The entire section is 465 words.)

Chapter 9 Summary

Nearly everything that has happened to Opal during the summer has been the result of her having Winn-Dixie. Just like the dog drew her into friendships with Miss Franny Block and Sweetie Pie Thomas, he leads her to find another friend, Gloria Dump, the town witch.

When Opal says goodbye to Sweetie Pie Thomas and leaves Gertrude’s Pets, she rides her bicycle down the road and Winn-Dixie runs along next to her. Soon they go past the Dewberry house, and the two Dewberry boys, Dunlap and Stevie, get on their bikes and follow Opal and Winn-Dixie. Both boys have had their heads shaved to prevent them from getting fleas from their cat; to Opal, they look like two bald-headed babies. Opal can hear the two boys talking behind...

(The entire section is 408 words.)

Chapter 10 Summary

Opal sits and tells Gloria Dump everything about her life. She talks about her and the preacher’s move from Watley to Naomi and explains how she had to leave all her friends behind when she moved. Then Opal tells Gloria about her mother and how she left when Opal was little; she also tells Gloria the ten things the preacher told her about her mother. Gloria listens as Opal explains that she thinks about her mother much more now than she ever did in Watley. She tells Gloria about how the preacher acts like a turtle in his shell, hiding from all the things that trouble him. And she finally tells Gloria about finding Winn-Dixie in the grocery store and how he has led her to meeting new people like Miss Franny Block, Otis, Sweetie...

(The entire section is 461 words.)

Chapter 11 Summary

There is a bad thunderstorm that night. Opal is roused from her sleep by Winn-Dixie, who is whining and banging his head on her bedroom door. She gets out of bed and pets the dog on the head, but he will not be calmed. Winn-Dixie is trembling violently, and Opal is afraid because she does not know what is causing his fear. She kneels down and puts her arms around the dog, but he does not smile or wag his tail. He continues to whine and bang his head on the door. Thinking that he must want to get out of the room, Opal opens the bedroom door, and Winn-Dixie runs with all his might to the other end of the trailer.

Opal fears that the dog will wake her father, so she tries to get control of him, but it is too late. A loud...

(The entire section is 416 words.)

Chapter 12 Summary

On the morning Opal is scheduled to begin working at the pet store, she arrives so early the Closed sign is still on the door. But the door is unlocked, so she and Winn-Dixie go in. Once inside, Opal hears the most beautiful music she has ever heard. She sees that all the animals are out of their cages on the floor. Mice, snakes, hamsters, gerbils, rabbits, lizards, and birds are all on the floor together, and Otis is standing in the middle of them playing his guitar. The animals appear to be entranced, and Winn-Dixie settles himself on the floor and becomes part of it. Gertrude the parrot screams, “Dog!” and flies over and perches on Winn-Dixie’s head. Otis looks up at Opal and stops playing his guitar, but when the music...

(The entire section is 431 words.)

Chapter 13 Summary

Opal and Winn-Dixie get into a routine of getting up early every day and going to Gertrude’s Pets to watch Otis play his guitar for the animals. Sometimes Sweetie Pie also comes to listen to the music, and she sits with her arms wrapped around Winn-Dixie because she loves him so much. Afterward, Sweetie Pie goes around the store and looks at all the animals to try to pick a pet for herself. But Sweetie Pie can never choose one because all she really wants is a dog like Winn-Dixie. Then Opal sweeps the floor and arranges the shelves for Otis because he is not as organized as she is. In his notebook labeled “One red leather collar, one red leather leash,” Otis writes down the hours Opal has worked. After leaving the pet store,...

(The entire section is 410 words.)

Chapter 14 Summary

Opal tells Gloria all kinds of stories: sometimes she relays the stories of Miss Franny Block, other times she talks about Otis in his pointy boots playing his guitar for the animals, and some days she makes up her own story. Whatever the story, Gloria listens to it from beginning to end. Gloria used to love reading stories, but now her eyesight is too bad and cannot be fixed with reading glasses. So she loves to hear a good story.

One afternoon, after telling her story, Opal tells Gloria that Otis was once in jail and that he was a criminal. She asks Gloria if she should be afraid of him. Gloria does not directly answer Opal’s question. Instead, she takes her to a tall, old tree way in the back of her yard. Opal has...

(The entire section is 505 words.)

Chapter 15 Summary

The air-conditioning unit does not work well at the Herman W. Block Memorial Library, so Miss Franny Block uses a large fan to keep the place cool. As soon and Opal and Winn-Dixie arrive at the library, the dog goes over the fan and lies right in front of it. The forced air makes his fur blow, and loose tufts of hair float away from him. Opal worries that the blowing air from the fan will one day make Winn-Dixie bald, but Miss Franny assures her that she has never known a fan to make a dog bald.

During her storytelling, Miss Franny has little shaking fits that make her forget what she is saying. Whenever Miss Franny has one of her fits, Winn-Dixie gets up from the fan and comes to sit next to her. With his ears perked...

(The entire section is 421 words.)

Chapter 16 Summary

Miss Franny Block’s great-grandfather Mr. Littmus W. Block was just a fourteen-year-old boy when he went to war. The firing on Fort Sumter had just occurred, and Littmus’s father, Artley W. Block, was already a soldier, so Littmus went to fight. He told his mother that he could not just sit by and watch the South get destroyed. Miss Franny says that men always want to fight and are lured by wars. Littmus lied about his age, but because he was a big boy the recruiters believed him and enlisted him as a soldier. Littmus left behind his mother and three sisters and went off to be a war hero, but he would soon learn the truth about the reality of war. Miss Franny says that war is “hell.” Amanda reminds Miss Franny that...

(The entire section is 397 words.)

Chapter 17 Summary

Miss Franny continues with her story: When Littmus came home from the war, he sat on the remains of his front porch and felt so alone he cried like a little baby. He missed his family, and the war left him feeling bitter. All of a sudden, Littmus got the idea that he would like to have something sweet, like a piece of candy. He thought that the world should have something sweet in it to combat all the ugly things. So Littmus set his mind to it and walked all the way to Florida, planning his next venture. When he got to Florida, he built a candy factory on Fairville Road. Littmus’s company was famous for the Littmus Lozenge, and its success led to the family’s fortune.

Opal and Amanda admit they have never heard of...

(The entire section is 429 words.)

Chapter 18 Summary

When Opal arrives at Gloria’s house, she tells Gloria that she has two surprises for her: a big surprise and a small one. Gloria says she wants the small surprise first, so Opal gives her a Littmus Lozenge. Gloria remembers the candies—her father used to eat them. When Gloria eats the candy, she says that it tastes sweet but it also tastes “like people leaving.” Gloria then asks for the big surprise, and Opal reveals that she is going to read Gone with the Wind for Gloria. Opal tells Gloria that the book is quite long, so Gloria gets settled in her chair and says they had better start reading. Opal reads the first chapter of the novel loud enough to keep Gloria’s ghosts away. Afterward, Gloria says that the...

(The entire section is 411 words.)

Chapter 19 Summary

The next day, Opal and Winn-Dixie go to Gertrude’s Pets early in the morning so Opal can sweep and clean the store again. When she gets there, Opal gives Otis a Littmus Lozenge. Otis asks if it is Halloween since Opal is giving him candy, but Opal says that the candy is just a gift for today. Otis puts the Littmus Lozenge in his mouth and soon tears roll down his cheeks. He thanks Opal, and she asks if he likes the taste. Otis says he likes the candy and but it reminds him of being in jail.

Stricken by her curiosity and fearing that she will lose her nerve, Opal quickly asks Otis why he was in jail. Otis says that he is neither a murderer nor a burglar, and then he stares at his boots. Otis says that he is not a...

(The entire section is 449 words.)

Chapter 20 Summary

Opal tells Gloria about why Otis was arrested, and Gloria laughs at the absurdity of the situation. Opal says that Otis is just so lonely that he wants to play his music for everyone all the time. Gloria says that sometimes things are just so sad they end up being funny. Then Opal tells Gloria what she learned from the preacher about Amanda’s brother, Carson, and how he drowned the year before. Gloria says that she remembers having heard about the drowning. Opal says she now understands that Amanda is so “pinch-faced” because she misses Carson, and she asks Gloria if she thinks that everybody is missing somebody. Gloria says she thinks “the whole world has an aching heart.”

Opal does not want to keep thinking...

(The entire section is 416 words.)

Chapter 21 Summary

Gloria and Opal spend the entire afternoon preparing for the party. They make egg salad sandwiches without the crusts and put toothpicks in them to make them look fancy. Winn-Dixie sits in the kitchen the whole time wagging his tail and watching them work. Winn-Dixie smiles at Gloria, trying to persuade her to give him some food. When she thinks Opal is not watching, Gloria slips the dog a sandwich. Gloria and Opal also make “Dump Punch,” a mixture of orange juice, grapefruit juice, and soda. Gloria says she is famous for the drink, but Opal has never heard of it before. The last thing they do in preparation is decorate the yard. Opal strings yellow, pink, and orange crepe paper streamers in the trees. They also put candles...

(The entire section is 424 words.)

Chapter 22 Summary

Otis follows Opal all the way into the back of the yard, where the party is taking place. After Opal takes Otis to the party, she introduces him to her father, who tries to shake Otis’s hand. The preacher sticks his hand out to greet Otis, but Otis is holding on to the pickle jar with both hands. Otis tries to free a hand by shuffling around the pickle jar, but it is just too big to manage with only one hand. Otis has to bend over to put down the big jar of pickles, and when he does, his guitar hits him on the head. Otis says, “Ouch!” but he is not hurt. Sweetie Pie laughs, thinking that Otis is just being funny to entertain the guests at the party. Otis wipes his hand on his pants and shakes the preacher’s hand. Opal’s...

(The entire section is 404 words.)

Chapter 23 Summary

After the rain starts, Gloria yells to Opal and tells her to save the sandwiches and punch from getting ruined by the rain. Sweetie Pie runs around the yard and tears the dog pictures off the trees and chairs. She yells that she has saved them all from being ruined. Opal grabs the tray of egg salad sandwiches, and her father grabs the bowl of punch; the two run into Gloria’s kitchen to store the items. Then Opal goes back outside and sees Amanda helping Miss Franny Block come into the house. Miss Franny’s high heels make her so unstable that it seems she would have tipped over without Amanda’s help. Following Amanda’s lead, Opal takes hold of Gloria’s arm to help her, but Gloria tells Opal that she is alright. Opal looks...

(The entire section is 453 words.)

Chapter 24 Summary

Opal and the preacher walk the streets and call Winn-Dixie’s name. Opal is glad it is raining so heavily because the noise drowns her crying. Even though they call his name loudly, Winn-Dixie does not appear. Opal and the preacher walk all around town: they go downtown, they walk past the Dewberrys’ house, the library, Sweetie Pie’s house, and Gertrude’s Pets. Opal and the preacher go back to their trailer park and search for Winn-Dixie, but he is not there either. Then they walk to the church and out past the railroad tracks. Opal and the preacher eventually find themselves on Highway 50, where cars rush past them. Opal fears that Winn-Dixie may have gotten run over, but the preacher tells her that they cannot worry about...

(The entire section is 549 words.)

Chapter 25 Summary

Opal and the preacher walk back to Gloria’s house, and they hear music a block away. When they enter Gloria’s kitchen, they see Gloria and Miss Franny sitting around Otis, smiling and singing while he plays the guitar. Sweetie Pie is sitting in Gloria’s lap, and Amanda, Dunlap, and Stevie are sitting on the kitchen floor. All of them are singing and clapping and having a great time.

Opal is shocked that they are all so happy even though Winn-Dixie is missing. Opal shouts to everyone that she and the preacher were not able to find Winn-Dixie. Otis stops playing the guitar. Gloria looks at Opal and tells her that she already knows that Opal and the preacher did not find Winn-Dixie—he was right there in the kitchen...

(The entire section is 505 words.)

Chapter 26 Summary

The rain finally stops and the clouds disappear from the sky. Opal thinks the sky is so clear it seems like she can see every single star. She goes to the back of Gloria’s yard and looks up at the branches of Gloria’s mistake tree. Because there is no breeze, the bottles remain perfectly still and quiet. Opal looks from the tree to the sky, and she talks to her mother. She tells her mother she knows ten things about her and that ten things are just not enough. Opal then says she knows her father will eventually tell her more things because he has admitted that he thinks her mother is not coming back. Opal says both she and the preacher miss her mother, but her heart is no longer empty; she has filled her heart with the love of...

(The entire section is 518 words.)