About the Book

Book Protagonist: Opal Buloni
Publication Date: 2000
Genre: Children, Teen and Young Adult

Themes and Analysis

Because of Winn-Dixie

By Kate DiCamillo

In ‘Because of Winn-Dixie’, readers can expect themes that tilt the emotion in ways that might force them to strive to be better human beings - just like Opal herself experiences.

Amongst the themes floated by ‘Because of Winn-Dixie’, topics that border around giving friendship a whirl, putting oneself in someone else’s shoes, and understanding people despite their sad, unpleasant past – among other things are well packed in the book. The themes here are very touching and some of the best ones will be examined.

Because of Winn-Dixie Themes

Abandonment and loneliness

There’s a general feeling of abandonment resulting in loneliness in Kate DiCamillo’s ‘Because of Winn-Dixie’ – these are mostly reflected through the character of Opal but also with several others.

On abandonment, the readers notice how the absence of mama, Opal’s mother – (who disappears when Opal was three years), affects Opal and her father, the preacher. Mama leaving cause causes a huge void in both their lives, causing a breakdown in the father-daughter relationship they should be enjoying.

There’s also the feeling of loneliness accompanied by it: for Opal, she longs for the warmth and livelinesses of her mother; for the preacher, he misses the love of his life and can’t appear to move on past that reality.


Being there for each other and doing everything possible to be happy in the company of others is the reason the book has a happy ending for most of the characters – including Opal. Opal first finds companionship in an unlikely character, Winn-Dixie, a stray dog she found in the grocery store, then she is taught how to find the best in even the worse people and make a friend and companion out of them.


Great courage and bravery are shown in ‘Because of Winn-Dixie’, particularly with the book’s protagonist Opal. This is seen in how she is able to muster the inner strength to let go of mama and all the nostalgic feelings around her preventing her (Opal) from being happy and enjoying her life as is given to her.

Key Moments in Because of Winn-Dixie

  1. Naomi, Florida. 11 years old Opal narrates a story of last summer when she was 10 years old. She has just recently moved to the town with her father the preacher and is to run errands for her father at the grocery store.
  2. Opal returns home from the errand but has more than groceries in hand, she had found a stray dog and brought him home.
  3. The preacher is reluctant to allow Opal to keep the dog but later agrees on terms that she would take proper care of him. Opal agrees as she takes good care of the dog which she had named Winn-Dixie.
  4. She becomes fond of Winn-Dixie as they spend so much time together, however, she still misses her mother, mama, and asks the preacher to tell her ten things about her. Evernote’s then down and memorizes them.
  5. Winn-Dixie follows Opal to practically everywhere. One time he follows her to church and catches a live mouse which is later set free by the preacher.
  6. When Opal goes to a local library to get books, Winn-Dixie watches from the window and frightens the library keeper Miss Franny Block – who thinks he’s a bear that has come to eat them. Opal calms her down and they become friends.
  7. Opal goes to Gertrude’s pet to get a collar for Winn-Dixie but has to work out the payment at the shop. Just outside Gertrude’s, she meets five years old Sweetie Pie Thomas who invites her to her sixth birthday. Sweetie Pie loves Winn-Dixie and wants to have a dog like him.
  8. When Opal heads home on her bike, two brothers, Dunlap and Stevie, trail her muttering behind her. Opal feels very uncomfortable.
  9. Just then Winn-Dixie scales over a fence into a nearby garden and the two brothers tout Opal that her dog is going to be eaten by the witch. Opal insults them and goes to get her dog.
  10. She finds her dog eating peanut butter from the hands of a nearly blind old woman (Gloria Dump) – who also offers her some. Opal shared her story with Gloria and they become friends.
  11. There is a raging thunderstorm that night and Opal discovers that Winn-Dixie is afraid of it as he becomes restless and even knocks down the preacher.
  12. Opal resumes work at Gertrude’s and finds Otis playing guitar for all the animals, letting them out of their cage. Otis later reveals to Opal that he finds pleasure in doing so because he too has been in jail and knows the feeling of being locked up.
  13. Opal doesn’t feel safe working with an ex-con so she sees advice from Gloria. Gloria convinced her that people’s presence is more important than their past by showing her the ‘mistake tree’ hung with several alcoholic bottles which she (Gloria) had drunk many years ago but doesn’t drink anymore.
  14. At the library, Miss Franny has an emotional crisis and tells Opal and Amanda a story about her great grandfather, and how he invented Littmus Lozenges – a candy made with sadness as a recipe. She gives the girls some candy and it stirs up a feeling from their past. The candies go around the characters and each has a fit from their sad past.
  15. Opal decides to make everyone happy again by throwing a party setting the venue at Gloria’s house. All of them agree to attend – including Dunlap and Stevie.
  16. At the party, it starts to rain and thunder. Winn-Dixie goes missing in the process. As Opal and the preacher go out in search of him, Opal writes down ten things about her dog.
  17. Without no sign of Winn-Dixie, the preacher tells Opal to let him go but Opal is infuriated and accuses him of not fighting hard enough to prevent mama from leaving seven years ago. He cried and tells her he did everything he could. Opal hugs him as they fry together.
  18. On returning to the party, they find Winn-Dixie, who apparently had been hiding under Gloria’s bed. Opal is happy for him and so is everybody. Just then, Opal slips away to the mistake tree and tells mama that she’s finally found friends and intends to be happy from now on and that she won’t be thinking much about her anymore.

Style and Tone

For the style of ‘Because of Winn-Dixie’, Kate DiCamillo employs the limited first-person narrative style whereby the readers are able to see how the story plays out through the eye of the young protagonist, India Opal Buloni. Such narrative technique allows readers to get to know Opal more personally and feel for themselves what she feels in the book.

The tone is typically dreamy and nostalgic and this is proven in how, for the most part of the book, Opal misses mama, her mother, and longs to see her again. She never wants to let go of the thought of her mother and even has this mental reunion already planned in her head. It’s sad she never gets to see her again in the end.

Figurative Language

There are a lot of figurative expressions used by Kate DiCamillo in her masterpiece ‘Because of Winn-Dixie’, however, there is a general proliferation of simile and metaphor – among other figurative languages in use.

Analysis of Symbols in Because of Winn-Dixie

Littmus Lozenges

This candy symbolizes the vicissitudes of life. When eaten, it’s sweet but also tastes sad – meaning that life is an admixture of happiness and sadness, and this is inevitable for everyone.

The Mistake Tree

It is a tree on which Gloria Dump hangs all the alcohol bottles she had ever drunk when she was an alcoholic. She shows this to Opal to convince her that even the seemingly nicest people have a terrible past and should not be judged by it. The mistake tree symbolizes bad habits – especially those buried in the past.


Mama, Opal’s mother who never gets to be seen, has an allegorical meaning representing abandonment. Opal and her father, the preacher, feel abandoned for most of the book, and this greatly affects their bonding, and are only able to move on when they let go of her and embrace the reality of an amazing new companionship they have made in Naomi.


What are Littmus Lozenges in Kate DiCamillo’s ‘Because of Winn-Dixie’?

Littmus Lozenges is a candy made with sweet and sad recipes that when eaten by anyone, is sweet but also makes such a person reminisce about a past sad event.

Who invented Littmus Lozenges?

The weird candy was invented by Miss Franny Block’s great grandfather, Littmus Block after he fought in the civil war and lost all his family members.

What is a predominant theme in Kate DiCamillo’s ‘Because of Winn-Dixie’?

Companionship is a vital theme in Kate DiCamillo’s ‘Because of Winn-Dixie’. It is the reason characters such as Opal, Amanda, Gloria Dump and Winn-Dixie among others have a happy life afterward.

Victor Onuorah
About Victor Onuorah
Victor is as much a prolific writer as he is an avid reader. With a degree in Journalism, he goes around scouring literary storehouses and archives; picking up, dusting the dirt off, and leaving clean even the most crooked pieces of literature all with the skill of analysis.
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