Because of Winn-Dixie

by Kate DiCamillo

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Chapter 14 Summary

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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 never been all the way to the back of Gloria’s yard, but she and Winn-Dixie follow Gloria anyway. When they get to the tree, Opal looks up and sees many bottles hanging by string from the branches. Wine bottles, beer bottles, and whiskey bottles blow in the breeze and make a clanky noise that Opal thinks sounds spooky. Winn-Dixie’s hair stands on end, and he makes a deep, low growl. Gloria asks Opal what she thinks about the tree. Opal does not know what to think and asks why there are so many bottles hanging from the branches. Gloria tells her the bottles are there to keep away the ghosts of all the things she has done wrong in her life. Opal is shocked that Gloria could have done so many wrong things; in Opal’s opinion, Gloria is the nicest person in the world. Gloria then reveals that she was the person who drank all the alcohol from those bottles. Opal reminds Gloria that her mother drank too, and she tells Gloria that the preacher said her mother drank so much sometimes that she could not stop herself. Gloria says that she used to be one of those people too, but now she does not drink anything stronger than coffee. Opal asks Gloria if her alcoholism made her do bad things, and Gloria admits that sometimes she did bad things in spite of the alcohol. Gloria tells Opal that she stopped doing bad things once she “learned what is the most important thing” in her life. Opal wants to know this secret, but Gloria teaches her that “the most important thing” is different for everyone.

Gloria then teaches Opal not to judge people by what they have done in the past but instead to see people for who they are in the present. She reminds Opal that Otis is a good man for playing his guitar and being kind to the animals at the pet store. She also cautions Opal against judging the Dewberry boys too harshly. When their conversation is over, Gloria walks back to the house and Winn-Dixie runs behind her. Opal remains in front of the tree and thinks about her mother.

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