Where The Red Fern Grows: Theme
Billy’s faith in God is tied to his Christian upbringing and it is referred to whenever he faces a new obstacle. His mother is also seen to pray in difficult times, and to offer thanks for assistance.
This faith is largely unquestioned, though, and is naturalized in the novel as the supposed normal way to live one’s life. Billy only questions the acts of God after the death of his dogs, but this is soon remedied and the growth of the red ferns is seen by his father and then him as a sign of God’s handiwork.
Christianity and hunting are entwined in this novel, as Billy often prays when his hunting touches on difficulties or calamities. His way of life is related as one that is both righteous and worth adhering to, and is tinged with facets of the American dream. This may be seen when he is only able to go hunting after working and saving diligently for two years to buy his dogs.
As well as being the central drive of the narrative, hunting is also a means to reflect how Billy is growing up and growing to be an independent young man. Hunting, this novel appears to say, is praiseworthy and helps a boy to develop into a man.
Loyalty is most evident in the relationship Billy has with his dogs, and the dogs have with him and each other. This thematic concern also lends the work a poignancy that becomes unbearable in the pen-ultimate chapter as Little Ann’s loyalty to Old Dan leads to her losing the will to live.