Because of Winn-Dixie

by Kate DiCamillo

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What is the conflict in "Because of Winn-Dixie"?

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The main conflict in Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo is Opal's abandonment by her mother. Opal and her father, who is a preacher, have moved to Naomi, Florida. It is in this small town that Opal learns to live with the loss of her mother with the help of her friends and the stray dog she finds, Winn Dixie.

In Chapter 11, a fierce thunderstorm blows in. Opal and her father discover that Winn Dixie is terrified of thunderstorms. The preacher and Opal try to calm the dog. But Winn Dixie won't be calmed. Opal's father explains to her that some people and dogs have pathological fears. These are fears that are very hard to overcome. When the storm comes, Winn Dixie can no longer smile because he is terrified and his fear takes over.

The fear of the thunderstorm relates to Opal's conflict in the book. Opal's fear is caused by her mother leaving when she was three and her sorrow over never knowing her mother. Opal must come to terms with this sense of loss. By the end of the story, Opal's father tells her that her mother will not be coming back, and Opal realizes just how much her dad loves her. Opal has overcome her feeling of abandonment because of her father's love, her friends, and importantly, because of Winn Dixie.

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Throughout Kate DiCamillo's book Because of Winn-Dixieten-year-old Opal meets a lot of new friends and learns a lot about the world, but things always seem to come back to Opal's mother. Opal and her father were abandoned by her mother when Opal was only three years old, but since moving to Naomi, Florida, Opal feels her absence even more.

The conflict is essentially that Opal is lonely, in a new place, and unable to accept the fact that her mother is gone. Starting with a stray dog she finds in a supermarket and adopts and names Winn-Dixie, Opal begins making new friends who help to make her life much better. However, she still wants to know more about her mother and hopes that she will see her again one day.

Later on, the conflict doubles with Winn-Dixie's disappearance (they find him, so it all turns out okay). This leads to Opal having a breakdown, which leads to her finally having the talk about her mother that she and her father needed to have.

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What events in Because of Winn-Dixie seem directly related to the story’s main problem or conflict?

The most significant events related to the problem and conflicts in the novel are concerned with the dog, Winn-Dixie. The main problem in Because of Winn-Dixie is Opal’s difficulty with accepting her mother’s abandonment. This problem is combined with her adjustment to living in a new town, where she and her father moved so he can pursue his vocation as a preacher. The conflicts around this problem are both internal and external. Both Opal and her father experience internal conflicts as they struggle with accepting their family status; there are related conflicts between daughter and father.

One important early event is Opal’s finding Winn-Dixie and bringing him home; this is closely related to her father’s initial resistance to their adopting the dog. As her father gradually gets used to having him around, Winn-Dixie helps Opal remember things about her mother by repeating them to the dog. Even more important, he helps her make friends which contributes to her fitting in to the town and realizing that there are many different kinds of families. For example, she gets to know Otis through working at the pet store. In the end, when Winn-Dixie gets lost, the traumatic event sparks a serious conversation with her father which helps her accept that her mother will not return.

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