Because of Winn-Dixie

   Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

The summer Opal and her father, the preacher, move to Naomi, Florida, Opal goes into the Winn-Dixie supermarket--and comes out with a dog. A big, ugly, suffering dog with a sterling sense of humor. A dog she dubs Winn-Dixie. Because of Winn-Dixie, the preacher tells Opal ten things about her absent mother, one for each year Opal has been alive. Winn-Dixie is better at making friends than anyone Opal has ever known, and together they meet the local librarian, Miss Franny Block, who once fought off a bear with a copy of WAR AND PEACE. They meet Gloria Dump, who is nearly blind but sees with her heart, and Otis, an ex-con who sets the animals in his pet shop loose after hours, then lulls them with his guitar.Opal spends all that sweet summer collecting stories about her new friends and thinking about her mother. But because of Winn-Dixie or perhaps because she has grown, Opal learns to let go, just a little, and that friendship--and forgiveness--can sneak up on you like a sudden summer storm.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do you think Opal wanted to know ten things about her mother? Can you tell what her mother is like from the ten things her father describes to her? Do you think that ten things can really describe a whole person?
  2. Do you think you'd like to eat a Littmus Lozenge? Why or why not?
  3. What do you think Opal and her dad, the preacher, get from having Winn-Dixie?
  4. Opal believes that life is like a Littmus Lozenge - that it's sweet and sad all mixed up together and hard to separate out. What do you think she means by that?
  5. What does the title Because of Winn-Dixie mean to you?
  6. At the end of the story, Opal seems to accept that her mother is not coming back. Why is this an important part of the story?
  7. When Winn-Dixie is missing after the thunderstorm, Gloria Dump says to Opal, "There ain't no way you can hold on to something that wants to go, you understand? You can only love what you got while you got it." What do you think Gloria means? Do you agree with her thought? Why or why not?
  8. Because her sight is failing, Gloria Dump wants to see Opal with her heart (page 66). What does Gloria mean by this? Does she succeed? Do you think a heart can see more truly than eyes can?
  9. According to Opal’s father, Winn-Dixie has a pathological fear of thunderstorms. Whatis a pathological fear? Do any other characters in the novel suffer from fears? Whatfrightens them?
  10. Otis was in prison as a younger man. How has that affected the way he treats the animalsin the pet shop? Have any other characters in the novel been confined, not behind bars but in other ways?
  11. Why do the Dewberry boys infuriate Opal? What does Gloria Dump mean when she tells Opal that the boys want to make friends with her “in a roundabout way” (page 91)? How is Gloria proved right?
  12. “Sometimes, it seemed like everybody in the world was lonely,” Opal observes (page 132). What do you think? Are most of the characters in Because of Winn-Dixie lonely? Or is it Opal who suffers most from loneliness?
  13. Discuss the tree in Gloria Dump’s backyard. What hangs from its branches? What are the ghosts from Gloria’s past? How does the tree keep them away? Why does the tree make Opal wonder about her mother, and about herself?
  14. “Just about everything that happened to me that summer happened because of Winn-Dixie,” Opal says (page 60). Do you agree with her?