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Where The Red Fern Grows Essay Topics

Questions for Chapters 1-7

Comprehension and Recall

1. Why does Grandpa say that Billy shouldn't tell his father about the dogs?

His father wants to buy a mule and probably could use the money Billy is saving.

2. Why do the names carved in the tree seem perfect to Billy for his pups?

They are in the clearing where Billy found the magazine ad, the same clearing where he prayed for pups.

3. Why do Billy's parents think they should move to town?

They want the children to go to school and be exposed to the world.

4. How do the curiosity and stubbornness of a raccoon enable Billy to trap one?

The trap lures the curious coon with something shiny. Because the raccoon is stubborn, it won't let go of the shiny item and its paw gets stuck.

Higher Level Thinking Skills

5. Why is Grandpa dumbfounded when Billy brings in his $50?

He probably didn't realize how serious Billy was or think he could save so much money.

6. Why doesn't Billy tell his parents he is going to Tahlequah?

They don't know about the dogs; he is afraid to tell them.

7. How is Billy's life different from that of the children in town?

He doesn't wear shoes, is schooled at home; spends his time by the river and in the mountains.

8. Why do Billy and his father care about whether a raccoon is caught in a sports-manlike way?

Part of the hunt is outwitting the clever raccoon; they have respect for the animal.

Literary Elements

9. Character revelation: What does it show about Billy's character when he buys gifts for his family?

He is a thoughtful boy; he cares about his family and doesn't mean to upset them.

10. Foreshadowing: Who is the man in the first chapter? Why does the author start the story that way?

The man is Billy. Although he never went back to the Ozarks, his memories and respect for hounds never left him. The author wants the reader to understand how important this time was in Billy's life.

Personal Response

11. What things would you be willing to wait and work for for two years?


Questions for Chapters 8-13

Comprehension and Recall

1. Why does Mama worry about Billy?

He is out alone at night hunting; she is afraid harm will come to him.

2. How does Papa's treatment of Billy change?

He begins to treat him like a man — with more respect.

3. Why doesn't Billy give up when his dogs have a raccoon up the “big tree”?

He promised the dogs they'd get a raccoon.

4. How do the Pritchard boys get Billy to accept their bet?

They insult Grandpa who gets mad and puts up the money.

Higher Level Thinking Skills

5. Why would a hunter respect raccoons?

They are very clever at misleading dogs; they put up a good fight — a challenge.

6. Why does Grandpa put soap in Billy's pocket?

He is “washing his mouth out with soap” when Billy's stories get too far-fetched.

7. Why does Grandpa lock the store when he goes to the mill?

He doesn't trust the Pritchard boys.

8. Do miracles really happen to Billy, or does he solve his own problems?

Answers will vary; students should give reasons.

9. Why doesn't Billy want to kill the ghost coon?

He has too much respect for him.

10. Would Rubin have killed Billy's dogs if he hadn't tripped on the ax? Give reasons for your answer.

Possible: Yes, he was proud of his dog and thought it might be killed by Billy's dogs. He wasn't afraid of violence. No, he might hit his own dog by mistake.

Literary Elements

11. Narrative suspense: Why doesn't the author tell what Billy's father is doing with the money Billy earns?

Possible: It's not important to the story. Or, he doesn't want to give the ending away.

12. Characterization: What does Billy's treatment of Rubin tell you about Billy?

He isn't mean like Rubin; he believes in a fair contest.

Personal Response

13. Which of Billy's dogs would you like to have? Why?

14. How did you feel about Grandpa accepting the Pritchards' bet?


Questions for Chapters 14-20

Comprehension and Recall

1. Why are Billy's dogs unusual?

They fight together, won't eat until the other one does, save one another from danger, share food, watch over Billy.

2. How does Big Dan's behavior get Billy and the dogs in trouble?

He challenges any game which often leads to difficult situations. He fights the mountain lion.

3. Why does Billy bury Old Dan on the hillside?

He would be able to hear hounds as they hunted through the countryside; it was a beautiful spot.

Higher Level Thinking Skills

4. Why do the hunters at the contest treat Billy like an equal?

They respect his dogs and are good sportsmen.

5. Did Grandpa sign up for the contest for Billy's sake or his own sake?

Answers will vary. Students should give reasons.

6. How do you know that Billy is a good hunter?

He uses his experience; is patient; knows his dogs well; is a good judge of the habits of raccoons.

7. Why is Billy so willing to give his cup to his youngest sister?

She asks for it; he loves her; it is enough for him to win the contest.

8. How is Billy helped to understand his dogs' deaths?

The legend of the red fern helps him.

Literary Elements

9. Foreshadowing: On the way to the contest, Billy hears two screech owls — a sign of bad luck. How does this event foreshadow events in the story?

His dogs both die not long afterward.

Personal Response

10. Does Billy needlessly expose himself and others to danger during the storm?

11. Mama says, “Everyone needs help some time in his life.” Describe a time when you really needed help.

12. Did you like the book? Why or why not?

Average Overall Rating: 4
Total Votes: 1112

1.  Consider the structure of Where the Red Fern Grows and examine the role of the narrator.

The voice of the first-person narrator, Billy Colman, is used throughout the novel and it is of interest that the narration by the adult Billy is used as a framing device. He both introduces and concludes the work and the majority of the novel is centered on his childhood adventures with his dogs. By framing it in this way, the work is given a relatively tight and straightforward structure.


The first-person voice also lends the work a sense of immediacy as Billy recounts his stories and depicts events through his younger self’s eyes.


2. Analyze why this may be described as a Bildungsroman?

A Bildungsroman is a novel of development and in this piece we see Billy develop from a boy to an adolescent and when he and his family leave the area he is seen to be ready to move on to his next stage of life.


It is through his relationship with his dogs that the readers are made witness to his growing independence from his family, and this marks his separation from childhood and movement into the adult world.


The work he undertakes to save money to even buy these dogs is an early indicator of the influence they have on his developing sense of maturity. His later wins at the hunting championship, which are a culmination of the happy times he shares with them, are thus notable for the way they signal his acceptance by adults.


3. How are female characters depicted in this work?

Female characters play only minor roles in this novel, but it should be remembered that Billy’s mother is a significant influence on his life despite his adolescent complaints about how women worry more than men.


His sisters are similarly relegated to lesser roles, but at the same time it is made apparent that his annoyance with them is intrinsic to his age at the time of his adventures. His love for them is revealed most evidently when he gives them the cups he has won at the hunting championship.


Given the nature of this story, only Billy and his dogs are central characters as they are depicted as being central to his world. Anybody else, including his immediate family, is secondary and this highlights the love he has for the animals.



4. In what ways does this novel conjure up ideas associated with the American Dream?

Hard work, a love for God and a sense of patriotic duty are elements that run through the narrative. In addition to this, the American Dream is also seen to be embodied in Billy’s approach to buying and training his pups. It is as if he proves, if it is possible for a work of fiction to prove anything, that determination and perseverance and a significant amount of praying will mean Billy will get what he deserves: the two pups.


Because of the novel’s faith in justice and the power of the individual, this is also an optimistic text that allows one to believe momentarily that it is possible after all to achieve one’s goals.


5. To what extent is hunting associated with Christianity?

Being successful at hunting and praying to God are tied together in this work as on several occasions we see Billy pray to Him for a miracle. This occurs, for example, on his first trip out with his dogs and he decides to chop down the tree to bring the coon out to be killed. It is only after praying that a wind comes and assists in felling the tree.


This observance of God and his power is barely ever questioned within the text and it is as though we as readers are also expected to concur with Billy’s mostly unquestioning faith. Despite this expectation, readers should be ready to counter the suppositions made by the narrator, which include the connection made between the successful capture and killing of coons with a righteous way of life.

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