What makes Old Dan and Little Ann different from most hounds?
First, Old Dan and Little Ann are a rare combination. Little Ann is smart, and Old Dan is strong and brave. It is a combination that can catch almost any coon. More important, perhaps, is the way that the two dogs get along together. Old Dan never eats until Little Ann gets her share of food. They lick each others wounds, and won't hunt without one another. They are so close, they are almost human. Perhaps they are better than human, the book seems to suggest. Finally, Little Ann is incredibly playful. Hounds are normally serious hunters, eager for the chase but otherwise quite calm. Little Ann is different. She jumps and skips and tries to play with Old Dan and Billy.
In what ways does Billy show determination?
One of the most important themes of Where the Red Fern Grows is determination. The hounds are always determined to catch a raccoon. Billy is as full of determination as his dogs. First, he shows determination by saving his money for two years in order to buy his dogs. When the marshal learns that Billy has saved for two years, he remarks that he has shown a lot of "grit." Billy also shows grit by walking barefoot through the woods in the middle of the night to get his dog. He spends several days chopping down the big sycamore. He does that because he doesn't want to let his pups down. Because of Billy's determination in cutting down the big sycamore, he wins the trust of Old Dan and Little Ann. Billy's determination causes other people to respect him. When he is hunting with the Pritchard boys, he refuses to give up. The same is true of the championship. Billy's determination brings him good things, such as the trust of his dogs and money for his parents.
What does the red fern symbolize?
Obviously, the red fern is a kind of memorial to the spirits of Billy's departed dogs. According to legend, an angel has to plant the seed of the red fern, and so wherever there is a red fern, it marks something very admirable and special. It is red, the color of blood, yet it is not a symbol of death. On the contrary, it helps Billy forget about the deaths of his dogs. Because an angel has honored his dogs, he understands that they are part of God's plans. His papa believes in fate, and when Billy sees the red fern, he is led to believe that there is a divine hand in what has happened to his dogs. He remembers that he prayed for the dogs and that all along, they seem to have been a gift of God. Perhaps this makes Billy accept that they were only a temporary gift. At least, it allows him to accept that their loss is part of a larger plan. So, the red fern helps Billy to understand that the death of his dogs is part of a bigger plan.
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