Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Big Red is told in the third person almost entirely from the point of view of Danny Pickett, a young man intimately familiar with and deeply fond of the Wintapi, a wilderness area on the border of thinly settled farm and ranchland. Danny is introduced to a tantalizing new world when he first sees a splendid Irish setter being groomed as a show dog by Dick Haggin, who owns the estate on which Danny and his father, Ross, live in a squatter’s cabin. Danny is following in his father’s footsteps, helping him make their living off the land as trappers and hunters. Danny has a chance to explore a new way of life, however, when Mr. Haggin, recognizing the camaraderie between the dog and the young man as well as Danny’s innate dog-handling skills, asks Danny to take care of Red and learn how to train and breed show dogs while training Red as a bird-hunting dog. Danny and Red grow significantly through the course of the novel, both as individuals and closer together as comrades. By the end, they are well prepared to face their greatest challenge—the threat of Old Majesty, a powerful, dangerous black bear who seems to prey at will on livestock and who eventually badly hurts Ross when he tries to track down the wily old marauder.

The novel is divided into twelve titled chapters, each recounting a key experience in the lives of Danny and Red. In “Irish Setter,” Red picks up the trail of Old Majesty and tracks the big bear to a standstill, “the...

(The entire section is 558 words.)