Winter’s Bone Essay Topics

Daniel Woodrell

Winter’s Bone

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Winter’s Bone Essay Topics

1. How does this novel fit in within the genre of Southern Gothic literature? How does the novel articulate themes similar to those in the work of Faulkner or Cormac McCarthy?

2. The natural world plays a fundamental role in the novel. What role does the environment play in Ree’s physical and emotional journey? Why does Woodrell create a world at once beautiful and harsh, and how does that correspond to other themes within the novel?

3. How does Ree’s journey correspond to the journeys of other classic literary figures? For instance, how does Ree’s journey mimic that of the mythical Odysseus, Antigone, or King Lear? How does the Ozark environment influence this mythical structure?

4. Structurally, how does Woodrell’s narrative diction and organization imitate the story itself? For instance, how does the novel’s ending simulate Ree’s own endeavors to communicate with the rest of the Dolly clans?

5. Ree often refers to her mother’s mental illness in terms of fragmentation, division, incompletion, and loss. What does Ree’s word choice communicate about her own understanding of mental illness? How does her understanding of mental illness illustrate her environment and the stress people faced daily?

6. How does Uncle Teardrop evolve throughout the novel? What does his character reveal about the Dolly moral code, and what wisdom does he impart to Ree?

7. What do you think of the Dolly clan’s folkloric mythology that Ree describes throughout the novel? How does their conception of religion influence their livelihood or perhaps perpetuate problems within the Dolly family?

8. Many characters find themselves hoping for or shielding themselves against love or companionship. How does Gail’s relationship with Ree influence her conception of both, and how does their relationship speak to their individual needs?

9. Ree dreams of traveling and freedom. Initially, she hopes to find this in the U.S. Army. However, she puts this ambition aside at the end of the book. Do you think she sacrificed her dream for her brothers, or do you think Ree’s need for freedom and traveling has somehow changed? How does this reflect on her conceptions about the future?

10. Ree often speaks of the Dollys in fatalistic terms….

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