Notes on Where the Red Fern Grows Themes

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Where the Red Fern Grows Topic Tracking: Maturity

Maturity 1: Billy is walking home from work one afternoon when he comes across a dog fight. He helps one of the dogs and takes him home. That night, Billy feeds the dog and gives him a warm place to sleep. It reminds him of the two hunting hounds he used to have when he was a boy and this makes him feel good. The next morning, Billy thinks about keeping the dog. Despite the fact that it would be nice to have the dog around, Billy sets him loose because he knows that it is not right to pen up a hunting hound. He does the right thing and acts for the good of the dog.

Maturity 2: Billy is finally in Tahlequah, the town where he is to pick up his brand new pups. Upon arriving in the town, he starts to feel guilty about leaving his house without telling anyone where he was going. He sees a store and decides to buy gifts for his family. He buys new overalls for Papa, cloth for Mama, and candy for his sisters. Billy is mature in that he is able to realize when he has done wrong. And even though he did something wrong, he feels badly about it and has the heart to want to try and make it better.

Maturity 3: Billy and his pups head home after their trip to Tahlequah. Billy knows he shouldn't have the left house without telling Mama and Papa where he was going. He wonders what he will tell them when he finally arrives home. After much thought, he decides that he will tell them the truth. He is mature and does the right thing.

Maturity 4: During one of the dogs' hunts, they chase a coon up the biggest sycamore tree in the entire river bottom. Billy doesn't think he can chop it down, but he tries anyway. It takes him two days of backbreaking work to cut the tree down, but he doesn't give up because of the promise he made to his dogs. He promised them that if they treed a coon, then he would do the rest and chop it down. He will not go back on his word to his dogs. He cares about their relationship and his promise too much to go back on his word. He is mature enough to recognize the importance of keeping one's word.

Maturity 5: The dogs chase a coon up the biggest sycamore in the river bottom. Billy tries to cut the tree down for days. He back is sore, he has blisters on his hands, and he is tired and hungry. However, as much as he wants to quit he won't give up for two reasons. One, he promised Old Dan and Little Ann that he would cut the tree down if they treed a coon. Two, he knows that if he quit now, the tree would die from all the chopping already done. To have killed the tree for nothing is not something Billy thinks is right.

Maturity 6: Sometimes Billy hangs out at Grandpa's store. When the other hunters are there, Billy and the hunters exchange tales about their hunting adventures. Every now and then the hunters make fun of Old Dan and Little Ann. They say that Billy's dogs are small and that Little Ann isn't half as smart as Billy says she is. Hearing negative remarks about his dogs greatly offends Billy. He says that it makes his blood boil. However, Billy is mature enough to not fight back. He says that he always took their kidding with a smile on his face.

Maturity 7: Rubin and Rainie Pritchard make a bet with Billy that his dogs cannot tree the "ghost coon." Billy agrees to the bet and Old Dan and Little Ann end up treeing the coon. When it comes time for Billy to climb the tree and kill the coon, he stops and doesn't go through with it. Rubin and Rainie think he is crazy and they want the coon dead, but Billy sees something in the old coon. He feels badly for the coon. The coon is old and has been around for quite a while, unable to be caught by any hunter, and Billy sees this as special. He is more mature than Rubin and Rainie who just want the old coon dead. Billy stands up for the coon, even though he faces embarrassment and ridicule from the Pritchard boys.

Maturity 8: After Rubin dies, Billy walks to his grave and leaves flowers on the grave. Despite the fact that Rubin tormented Billy and made fun of his dogs, Billy still feels awful about Rubin's death and how it must have affected Rubin's family. Billy sets aside all his bad feelings about the Pritchards and leaves the flowers for Rubin. When Rubin's mother sees this, she cries. Billy knows that he did the right thing.

Maturity 9: The championship coon hunt is over and Billy is awarded the gold cup and the three hundred dollars in prize money. He is speechless. It is more money than he has ever seen. He hands the money over to Papa. Billy has continually acted out of the greater good for his family and this is just another instance. Instead of keeping the money for himself, he gives it to his father because he knows that his family needs the money. Billy is selfless and it is the ultimate act of charity and maturity.

Maturity 10: Old Dan and Little Ann go out hunting for coons. Instead, they tree a mountain lion. After a terrible fight, Old Dan and Little Ann are badly hurt. Billy does not know what to do. Instinctively, he plunges the ax into the lion in order to save the life of his dogs. When the lion is finally on his last breath, Billy sits and looks at him. Even though the lion hurt him and his dogs, he says that in every evil, there is a little bit of good (referring to the lion, Rubin Pritchard, and life in general). Billy is not too quick to make judgments and he has a mature understanding of the world around him.

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