Where The Red Fern Grows: Chapter 4,5,6

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Summary – Chapters Four, Five and Six

The narrator goes to the store every day, but there is no news until one Monday when he notices a change in his grandfather. When the other customers leave the store, his grandfather explains that the kennels are still there and they have dogs for sale. He has made out an order for him and furthermore the dog market has devalued. The price of each dog has dropped by five dollars each and he gives him 10 dollars back. The mail buggy cannot carry the dogs so they will come only as far as the depot at Tahlequah. He tells him he will have to wait a couple of weeks and will be able to get a ride to Tahlequah to pick them up when they come.


After two weeks, he learns that the dogs are ready to be picked up and he can have a lift in about a week. He cannot bring himself to tell his father about it yet and also decides he cannot wait any longer. He gets out of bed that night, packs some food and sets off for the depot. Although he has never been to Tahlequah, he knows the way and walks as the crow flies (which is about 20 miles).


When he reaches Tahlequah, he feels scared as he has never seen such a big town and so many people. While there, he enters a store and buys his father overalls as well as cloth for his mother and candy for his sisters to make up for leaving home to fetch his dogs.


He finds out the way to the depot and on the way he watches children play in their schoolyard. He talks to one of them and on being asked Billy explains he does not go to school and is taught at home. The children start to call him a hillbilly, but then a bell rings and they turn and march into the school.


In Chapter Five, he reaches the depot and talks to the stationmaster. He e He is told they have some puppies for a boy named Billy Colman. Billy has trouble speaking, in his excitement, but the stationmaster realizes who he is and asks after his father (as he knows him).


He opens the box for him and the puppies gradually come towards Billy. He kneels down and gathers them in his arms. He cuts two holes in the sack he has brought with him and carries them out in this way.


On the main street, people laugh and shout. A gang of boys gather around him and start chanting and clapping, and call him ‘dogboy’. Billy starts to cry as this day, which he has waited for for so long, has now ‘turned black and ugly’.  The leader of the gang is wearing too-large cowboy boots and stomps on Billy’s bare foot. He says nothing even though it is extremely painful, but when another boy pulls the ear of his female pup he sets the sack down and takes up ‘a Jack Dempsey stance’ with his fists raised. He fights off two of them but there are too many of them to beat.


The marshal stops them fighting and separates them. When he talks to Billy, Billy explains to him about the dogs and how it has taken him two years to save for them by working. The marshal says how not one of ‘that bunch’ has ‘that kind of grit’. The marshal then buys him his first bottle of pop and as they talk he comes to understand that Billy has travelled for miles to reach the town, and has miles to travel back. He explains he will camp overnight and reassures the marshal he is unafraid of the mountains.


That night, he camps in a cave and lights a fire. He and the pups eat and he notices the boy dog is much larger than the girl one. He also thinks the girl one is the smarter of the two: ‘I knew when the trail became tough, she would be the one to unravel it.’


They all fall asleep, but Billy wakes up when he hears what he thinks is a woman screaming. He hears the noise again and it is closer this time, and recognizes the sound of a mountain lion. The boy dog wakes and runs to the mouth of the cave and makes a bawling sound; this scares him as much as it startles Billy. The girl dog joins him and this gives Billy courage and he throws rocks and shouts. This happens throughout the night.


Chapter Six outlines how they set off after breakfast and by midday he is in country that he knows. When he reaches the campground where he found the magazine advertising the pups for sale he stops and takes them out of the sack. He sits there in deep thought and thinks about what he will tell his parents.


He decides to simply tell them the truth and then considers what names he will give to his dogs. He sits a while and rejects some of his ideas and then notices the names Dan and Ann carved in a tree in the center of a heart. He decides to call the boy dog Old Dan and the female Little Ann. He thinks about everything that has happened and how he has asked God to help him here. He stays there until it is dark and leaves when his dogs cry because they are hungry.


He reaches home and when he runs to his mother he sees all the worry and grief leave her eyes. His father laughs and says that his grandfather told them all about the dogs and it had not been difficult to work out where he had been.

He gives them his presents and answers his father’s questions about where he stayed at night. He tells them about the lion and how he did not like the town much and explains about the fight.


His father tells him he might have to live in a town one day as he and his mother did not intend on living in the hills forever. They also think their children should have an education and should see the world and meet people. His mother says she prays day and night for this to happen as she does not want her children to grow up without seeing the inside of a schoolhouse.

The next day he makes his dogs a collar each and tells his mother how he prayed for them to come and made his plans after seeing the advertisement. He says how he found their names carved in the tree after he had been trying to think of them. She asks with a smile on her face if he believes God heard him and he replies ‘yes’ and says he will always be thankful.


Analysis – Chapters Four, Five and Six

Billy’s faith in God is reiterated again in these chapters and his prayers appear to be answered. This faith is a recurring aspect of this novel and Christianity is also often allied unquestioningly with the concept of hard work and determination. This belief in Christianity is largely unchallenged, as is made evident at the end of Chapter Six, but readers should be open to criticizing these at times simplistic acceptances of the existence of God.   

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