Winter’s Bone

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Thump Milton’s wife and the leader of a violent attack against Ree; she eventually brings Ree to her father Jessup’s body. Merab is tough but practical, and though her actions are brutal, the logic behind them is, to her, clear as day. Her devotion to her husband, to protecting the “old ways,” and to the preservation of her own reputation are all staunch and unmovable. In many ways, the only match to her stubbornness and allegiance to her clan is Ree herself.

Merab Quotes in Winter’s Bone

The Winter’s Bone quotes below are all either spoken by Merab or refer to Merab. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Back Bay Books edition of Winter’s Bone published in 2007.
Chapter 11 Quotes

“Ma’am, I got a real bad need to talk with Thump Milton…I need to, I really, really need to, ma’am. Please—I am a Dolly! Some of our blood at least is the same. That’s s’posed to mean somethin’—ain’t that what is always said?”

Related Characters: Ree Dolly (speaker), Merab, Thump Milton
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

Ree, desperate for answers, finds herself up against Merab, Thump Milton’s imposing wife. Merab refuses to let Ree inside Thump’s house, or even to tell him that she’s outside; Ree begs and begs and, finally, invokes their families’ blood ties. By referring to “what is always said,” Ree is doing the additional work of invoking the old ways: the ancient codes of loyalty, cooperation, and allegiance to which the Ozark families of the novel are bound. Ree ultimately exposes a weakness in Merab through these pleas, and, though she isn’t granted an audience with Thump, she realizes that perhaps the only chink in his armor is his and his family’s reverence for ancient ways. Isolated from the only route to truth she sees, this interaction will come to fuel Ree’s desperate search for the answer to Jessup’s whereabouts. It informs her anger toward, resentment of, and stubbornness against the entire Thump clan, and it emboldens her to continue to rail against them, despite how dangerous and bound to silence and secrecy they are.

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Chapter 34 Quotes

“We’ll carry you to your daddy’s bones, child. We know the place.”

Related Characters: Merab (speaker), Ree Dolly, Jessup Dolly
Related Symbols: Jessup’s Hands
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:

Though unconventional to be sure, this quote represents a kind of redemption for Merab and the Thump women. As perpetrators of gross violence against Ree, the Thump women are intimidating and antagonistic figures. Yet here, though they are only helping Ree in order to quell the rumors about their despicable acts that have been spreading throughout the Ozarks, they are still giving her what she’s been after all along: the knowledge of Jessup’s fate. Their not-entirely-pure motives are representative of their way of life, though; the world of the Ozarks in the novel is a world of violence, retribution, and, above all, survival at any cost. Any other ending for Merab and her sisters would have felt false, and would have betrayed their allegiance to the old ways they hold dear. Additionally, themes of women’s power in this world are exposed through their actions here; the Thump women are the ones who “know the place,” and the ones who can “carry” Ree to it. None of the men Ree has sought assistance from have been a help to her, and though the Thump women humiliated and betrayed Ree, they are ultimately the only people who can offer her the grace, information, and deliverance she’s so desperately sought.

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Merab Character Timeline in Winter’s Bone

The timeline below shows where the character Merab appears in Winter’s Bone. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 11
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Isolation and Independence Theme Icon
Women and Matriarchy Theme Icon
Ree climbs to Thump Milton’s house, where an older woman in an apron, Merab, stands outside the front door. The woman calls out to Ree, and tells her that... (full context)
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
Isolation and Independence Theme Icon
Women and Matriarchy Theme Icon
After almost an hour, Merab emerges from the house and tells Ree that Thump Milton will not speak with her.... (full context)
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
Violence and Decay Theme Icon
Isolation and Independence Theme Icon
Women and Matriarchy Theme Icon
After a long time, Merab comes out from the house once again, this time with a cup of soup for... (full context)
Chapter 24
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
Violence and Decay Theme Icon
Women and Matriarchy Theme Icon
Ree approaches the house. Merab looks out the door, then emerges from the house holding a steaming mug. Two women... (full context)
Chapter 25
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Violence and Decay Theme Icon
Women and Matriarchy Theme Icon
...the ground beside her, and she places them in the pocket of her grandmother’s coat. Merab approaches Ree calmly, telling her that she was “warned,” and asking why she wouldn’t listen.... (full context)
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Violence and Decay Theme Icon
Megan crouches next to Ree and Merab and asks: “Whatever are we to do about you, baby girl?” Ree suggests that Megan... (full context)
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Violence and Decay Theme Icon
Isolation and Independence Theme Icon
Women and Matriarchy Theme Icon
Teardrop enters the barn and asks who was responsible for beating Ree. Merab insists that no man touched her; that she herself and her sisters are responsible for... (full context)
Chapter 34
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Violence and Decay Theme Icon
Women and Matriarchy Theme Icon
...and sees three women on the porch. She fetches her shotgun and opens the door. Merab and her sisters are out on the porch—they tell Ree to come with them, and... (full context)
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Women and Matriarchy Theme Icon
...She tells them to stay inside the house, and leaves the shotgun for them, at Merab’s orders. The women bring Ree to their car, place a burlap sack over her head,... (full context)
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Violence and Decay Theme Icon
Women and Matriarchy Theme Icon
When they arrive at their destination, Merab tells Ree that once the burlap sack is off her head, she should not try... (full context)
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Violence and Decay Theme Icon
Women and Matriarchy Theme Icon
Merab hands Ree a chain saw—“How else you goin’ to get his hands,” she asks. Ree... (full context)