Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Women Aren't Where the Red Fern Grows

I'm reading Wilson Rawls' Where the Red Fern Grows for my personal text for English 295. At some point I know I'm supposed to focus in on literary aspects of this book that I want to explore (though I'm not completely sure what the encompasses yet). Nevertheless, something significant about the book just stood out to me, and I thought I'd publish it here to see if any other Where the Red Fern Grows readers have thoughts on the topic.

On page 146 of a novel that only has 212 pages, I learn for the first time of the existence of a living grandmother in the story. The grandfather's role in the novel is major from the beginning to the end, but not once until page 146 is his wife mentioned. Also, Billy has three little sisters, all of whom are frequent recipients of Billy's generosity and admirers of his dogs, but not much else. His mother is a perpetual worrier, constantly concerned about Billy's safety. There isn't much depth to her character at all. In fact, there is no depth to any female character in the entire novel (unless you count Little Anne, Billy's dog).

I love Where the Red Fern Grows, so I hate to see in it something so unappealing as what I've just pointed out. Am I just being a feminist? I don't think so. The women are inarguably flat. I'll love this book no matter what sort of sexism I uncover, and I think this might be a topic I want to look into further.


  1. Interesting. I had never really thought of Where the Red Fern Grows in terms of sexism, but I think the grandmother is a good point. I wonder if there are other people who have written about this.

    Your comment about the women being "inarguably flat" reminded me of this website I found for rating the depth of women in movies. Which kind of brings up the question of how we measure depth. Check it out:

  2. I also love the book Where the Red Fern Grows. I had never thought about that aspect of the book before, but sexism does appear to be present in the presentation of the female characters. I believe that would be a good topic to research and discuss further. Keep us updated.

  3. Nyssa, thanks for that link. That is super interesting. And thanks for the confidence boost, Ashley. I'll see what I can find.

  4. I'd be interested to know after you do some research on this what you think of the lack of depth in female characters in the scriptures.

  5. I totally agree on this. There are also comments that stereotype women as foolish, such as when Billy goes into town and the women and girls reacting to him being out of place, and the narration reads something like "they couldn't help it, they were womenfolk." I bristle every time, but like you, I still love the book for the story of the relationship between Billy and his dogs.