Where the Red Fern Grows

by Wilson Rawls

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Student Question

Who is the narrator of Where the Red Fern Grows?

Quick answer:

Billy is the first-person narrator of Where the Red Fern Grows. He tells us the story of his childhood in past tense.

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Where the Red Fern Grows is narrated by the book's protagonist, Billy Colman. It employs a first-person point of view, with Billy as the central narrator. The book is written in past tense, with much of the story being Billy's memories.

Chapter one begins with

When I left my office that beautiful spring day, I had no idea what was in store for me.

Here, we have an adult Billy, leaving his work, and getting distracted by a dog fight. This stirs something in Billy, "especially if that man has memories in his heart like I had in mine."

He concludes the first chapter drifting back to thoughts on his childhood:

As I caressed the smooth surfaces, my mind drifted back through the years, back to my boyhood days. How wonderful the memories were. Piece by piece the story unfolded.

Chapter two begins the story of Billy's quest for hunting dogs. Here, he is ten years old, which brings up an interesting perspective. The readers know that this is an adult reflecting on his childhood, so we should keep in mind that the memories could have changed slightly, or become embellished, over the years. Billy is what we might call an unreliable narrator, as the story is told as he remembers it, and more than fifty years have passed since the action actually happened.

The story spans years throughout Billy's childhood. It stays in his perspective despite the time changes:

A year passed. I was twelve. I was over the halfway mark.

The 1974 film adaptation of the book is narrated by Wilson Rawls, author of the book. The book is loosely based on his childhood experiences growing up in the Ozarks.

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