Because of Winn-Dixie

by Kate DiCamillo

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What are Opal's traits in "Because of Winn-Dixie"?

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In the beginning, Opal displays traits such as shyness, sadness, and loneliness. Later, after meeting Winn-Dixie, she comes out of her shell and displays traits such as friendliness, approachability, and bravery.

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Opal is a loving, optimistic young girl, which is all the more remarkable when one considers that her mother walked out on her when she was just three years old. In fact, Opal's optimism is fueled to a considerable extent by her firm belief that she will one day be reunited with her mother.

Nevertheless, the lack of a mother figure in Opal's life does make her feel incredibly lonely, as one can well imagine. But Opal's loneliness isn't scheduled to last for very long, as people are instinctively drawn towards her by her open, honest nature. As indeed is Winn-Dixie, who will form the closest bond of all with the new girl in town.

Despite her young age, Opal shows herself to be mature beyond her years in taking responsibility for the care of Winn-Dixie. And it's that maturity to which people in her new town automatically respond. It's clear to everyone she meets that this is a young lady with a responsible outlook on life. Once Opal has formed a close, loving bond with this very special stray dog, she quickly develops strong relationships with the people she meets. Inevitably, this serves to make her outlook on life all the more sunny and optimistic.

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Opal's traits at the beginning of this book are vastly different from those that she is displaying by the end of this great story. In the beginning, Opal is new in town and in a world of hurt. Her mother has abandoned her, she has no friends, and she is characterized by traits such as shyness, loneliness, reticence, sadness, and confusion.

Once Winn-Dixie comes into her life, however, things gradually start to change. Opal starts coming out of her shell, and thanks to the lovable nature of her canine companion, she starts to make friends with other lonely people in her new hometown. By getting to know an assortment of people who, for various reasons, live on the outskirts of society, Opal takes on an assortment of new traits such as friendliness, approachability, and kindness.

I would argue that bravery is another trait that Opal takes on as the book progresses. For a long time, she had been too scared to have a frank conversation with her father about her mother's departure. By the end of the novel, Opal has done that, and gained a lot of valuable insight into who her mother was and why she abandoned her family. She also shows her bravery by responding proactively when she thinks Winn-Dixie has gone missing.

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India Opal Buloni, known as Opal, is a ten-year-old girl who learns to find and appreciate love by the end of the book. First of all, she begins the story as a very lonely girl because she and her preacher father have moved to a new town, Naomi, Florida, where she doesn't know anyone. Complicating matters, Opal's mother has been gone since she was very young, and Opal is sad about not knowing her mother. She thinks her father might be responsible for her mother leaving them.

Upon finding her dog, Winn-Dixie, Opal's world soon starts to change. She makes friends with Miss Franny Brock, Gloria Dump, and Otis. Each friend teaches her something about life and helps her to grow up. Miss Franny is Opal's first friend who accepts Winn Dixie in the library and gives Opal her first sense of belonging in the town, which makes her confident. Opal learns not to judge people as a result of her friendship with Otis—before she met him, she thought if someone went to jail, he was bad. Otis teaches her otherwise. Gloria Dump teaches Opal to learn to see with her heart rather than her eyes. Opal becomes mature when she learns that lesson.

Most importantly, even though Opal is hopeful her mother will return and blames her father over her missing mother, she learns understanding. She discovers that making lists of ten important things about something doesn't help one to understand. Thus, her two lists about her mother and Winn-Dixie are not as important as loving what you have when you have it. In this way, Opal grows up and appreciates the love she and her father share. By the end of the story, she sees life differently because of Winn-Dixie.

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Opal is an out-going and loving young lady.  She is not easily embarrassed and she has such an open air about her that she easily wins the confidence of others.  The variety of friends she gains around her in Naomi are proof of this.  From Ms. Franny, the librarian, to Otis, the animal-charming musician criminal, Opal demonstrates a heart and an understanding that draws people to her.

Opal is also determined.  She dogs Otis constantly (excuse the pun) about a job until he is forced to give in.  She dogs her father as well, demanding to know about her mother until he too gives in.  She's determined to remember those things as well:

"I wanted to know those ten things inside and out. That way, if my mama ever came back, I could recognize her, and I would be able to grab her and hold on to her tight and not let her get away from me again."

Her determination makes her resent her father, believing that he gave up too early on his wife.  In the end, she realizes that while determination is good, understanding when to let go is also good.

Finally, Opal is lonely.  She lives in a neighborhood of adults, has no siblings, is in a new town, is missing a mother, and is alienated from her father.  Winn-Dixie is so important because he helps her get past her loneliness, which allows her to gather new friends around her.

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