Winter’s Bone Summary and Study Guide

Daniel Woodrell

Winter’s Bone

  • 45-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 35 chapter summaries and 6 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a literary scholar with a PhD in English Literature
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Winter’s Bone Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature.  This 45-page guide for “Winter’s Bone” by Daniel Woodrell includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 35 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Nature/Environment and Predetermination and the Loss of Freedom.

Plot Summary

Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone follows Ree Dolly’s forbidding quest to find her father, Jessup. Although the mission initially appears simple, Ree’s search exposes the hunger, corruption, and filth that constitute her community.

The action begins when Ree Dolly, a sixteen year-old girl who takes care of her mentally absent mother and two younger brothers, learns that her father has disappeared. Recently out of prison, Jessup had used their house and lands to secure his bail. A conversation with the local deputy reveals that if Jessup does not appear at his court date in a week, Ree and her family will lose the house. Thus begins Ree’s search for her father—a search full of red-herrings that leads her to the seedy underbelly of the extensive Dolly clan. The Dolly family is known as a family of hardened delinquents who live outside “square law”; they scorn the law as much as they scorn the townspeople who live by it. The small community’s poverty is ubiquitous, and the only future available is in the Dolly’s thriving methamphetamine business.

As Ree searches for her father, she continues to act as the primary caretaker for her family. Her close friend, Gail, acts as her confidante and partner during her investigation, along with her intimidating Uncle Teardrop. On her journeys, Ree confronts her extended family about her father’s disappearance and has several encounters with family members from other kinship groups. Most notably, Ree visits the isolated town of Hawkfall in search for answers, a search that leads her to the intimidating household of Mr. and Mrs. Thump. Their reticence about Jessup leads Ree to believe her father is actually dead. Although many people tell Ree to just accept her father’s disappearance, she continues her search for him in order to save her family from financial ruin. However, her journey gradually evolves into a search for her father’s body.

After being brutally beaten, Ree discovers that her father had broken one of the Dolly family’s mandates by working in conjunction with the police and paid with his life. With the unexpected aid of her assailants, Ree is ultimately able to provide proof of her father’s death. After she has ensured the security of her family’s house, however, Ree finds herself unable to fulfill her dream to leave the Ozarks and instead agrees to stay with her family.

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Chapters 1-3