Because of Winn-Dixie

by Kate DiCamillo

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What does Gloria Dump's advice to Opal in Because of Winn-Dixie mean?

Quick answer:

When Gloria says that it is not possible to hold onto something that wants to leave, she is telling Opal that she cannot force anyone to stay no matter how much love they share. This is a direct reference to Winn-Dixie, but the advice also refers to Opal’s mother. Gloria encourages Opal to love Winn-Dixie and the people in her life while they are together and to cherish the time always.

Expert Answers

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What Gloria is telling Opal in Because of Winn-Dixie is that it is not possible to hold onto something—or someone—when that loved one wants to leave, no matter how much love you have and show each other. One person cannot force another person or pet to stay. Gloria continues to say, ”You can only love what you got while you got it.”

In the scene between Gloria and Opal, Gloria makes a direct reference to Winn-Dixie, the stray dog that Opal finds and adopts. Winn-Dixie has been Opal's anchor ever since she moved to this new town where she knew no one. Winn-Dixie has helped Opal meet new people and form friendships and Winn-Dixie has helped Opal fend off her loneliness by being her constant companion. Winn-Dixie is lost and Opal is despondent.

When Gloria tells Opal that you cannot force a loved one to stay, she may be referring directly to Winn-Dixie, but it also refers to Opal’s mother. For reasons that Opal does not understand, her mother has left her and her father. Opal misses her and longs for her return. Gloria’s words let Opal begin to understand that people cannot force loved ones, human loved ones or canine loved ones, to stay if they need to leave even if the reason that they feel they need to leave is unclear.

Gloria encourages Opal to love Winn-Dixie and the people in her life while they are with her. She believes Opal should cherish their time together and remember the time always, even after the loved one leaves.

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