Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls


Where the Red Fern Grows, written by Wilson Rawls, is a timeless classic that has captivated readers for generations. This poignant novel weaves a powerful narrative of love, loyalty, and loss, set against the backdrop of the Ozark Mountains. With its vivid descriptions and compelling characters, the story takes readers on an emotional journey, leaving an indelible mark on their hearts. In this essay, we will delve into the key themes of the book and explore how Rawls masterfully portrays them, while also analyzing the impact of love, loyalty, and loss in the lives of the characters.


Love is a central theme in Where the Red Fern Grows, manifesting itself in various forms throughout the story. The bond between a boy named Billy Colman and his two faithful dogs, Old Dan and Little Ann, serves as the epitome of unconditional love. From the moment Billy sets eyes on the red fern that marks their graves, his love for his beloved pets is palpable. Rawls beautifully depicts the unbreakable connection between Billy and his dogs, emphasizing the power of love and the lengths one is willing to go to protect those they care about.

Moreover, the love between Billy’s family members also plays a significant role. Despite their financial struggles, Billy’s parents selflessly support his dream of owning the two coonhounds. Their love for their son is evident in their sacrifices and unwavering encouragement. Through these relationships, Rawls highlights the transformative power of love and its ability to transcend even the harshest of circumstances.


Loyalty is another crucial theme explored in Where the Red Fern Grows. Billy’s unwavering dedication to his dogs is a testament to the strength of loyalty. As Billy trains his dogs for the annual raccoon-hunting contest, he invests countless hours, facing numerous challenges along the way. The loyalty displayed by Old Dan and Little Ann towards Billy is reciprocated tenfold, as they fearlessly protect him from danger and exhibit unwavering faithfulness throughout their adventures.

Rawls skillfully portrays loyalty not only between humans and animals but also among friends. Billy’s close friendship with his neighbors, the Pritchard brothers, showcases the bond of loyalty in the face of adversity. Together, they navigate the trials of life, supporting and standing up for each other in times of need. The theme of loyalty resonates deeply, reminding readers of the importance of standing by one another through thick and thin.


Loss is a poignant and bittersweet theme that permeates the pages of Where the Red Fern Grows. As the story unfolds, Rawls does not shy away from the harsh realities of life, teaching readers valuable lessons about the inevitable nature of loss. The heartbreaking demise of Old Dan and Little Ann deeply impacts Billy, leaving him grappling with grief. Through this experience, Rawls sensitively explores the emotions associated with loss and the process of healing.

However, loss also serves as a catalyst for growth and resilience. Billy’s ability to cope with the pain of loss and find solace in his memories is a testament to the strength of the human spirit. As he matures, the lessons learned through loss shape his character, teaching him valuable life lessons about love, loyalty, and the transient nature of existence.


Where the Red Fern Grows is a literary masterpiece that skillfully explores the themes of love, loyalty, and loss. Wilson Rawls creates a world that resonates with readers of all ages, evoking a range of emotions through his poignant storytelling. The bond between Billy and his dogs, the unwavering loyalty among friends, and the profound impact of loss all contribute to the novel’s enduring legacy. By delving into these themes, Rawls reminds us of the power of love, the importance of loyalty, and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Where the Red Fern Grows is a timeless tale that continues to touch hearts, leaving an indelible imprint on the souls of its readers.