Ree Dolly, the protagonist of Winter’s Bone, is portrayed as being comfortable in nature and as appreciating it more than many of her relatives and neighbors. Ree finds that attending to distinct elements of the natural world can help her forget her problems, many of which are associated with people who are irritating, disappointing, or even hurting her. Not only genuine natural sounds but even recordings of music that incorporates such tranquil sounds can soothe her jangled nerves.
Ree’s quest to find her father requires her to travel around the mountainous Ozark landscape where she and her family live. At significant points, after she has negative experiences with human beings, places in the natural environment provide a refuge or have healing properties. One such occasion is her visit to Thump Milton’s house. After his hostile reaction to her questions, she is left on her own, far from home. She finds a cave and sleeps in it.
As her search continues, she increasingly doubts that she will be able to save her family or even find her father alive. Another visit to Thump’s place, however, results in a severe beating Whereas most of her relatives are unreliable, her friend Gail comes through to support her. With the help of Gail and her car, Ree can go on with her quest. Significantly, when she feels most weary, the running waters of Bucket Spring soothe her injuries and restore her spirit. Later, in the still water of a pond, she finds her father’s body.