Where the Red Fern Grows


Wilson Rawls

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Where the Red Fern Grows can help.
Themes and Colors
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
The Circle of Life and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Faith and Prayer Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Masculinity and Emotion Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Where the Red Fern Grows, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Lessons of a Dog’s Love

At the heart of Where the Red Fern Grows is the beautiful relationship between a boy and his dogs. When Billy Colman buys himself two hound pups, he makes a lifelong promise to care for them both. As the dogs grow and learn to hunt, they become much more than pets. Wilson Rawls ultimately argues that through caring for dogs and learning to see them as soulful, feeling, capable creatures, human beings can learn important…

read analysis of The Lessons of a Dog’s Love

The Circle of Life and Coming of Age

In Where the Red Fern Grows, the harsh realities of the world are never too far off: over the course of the novel, Billy Colman has both experiences and witnesses violence, cruelty, and death to varying degrees—both in the animal world an in the human one. Throughout the book, Wilson Rawls uses instances of violence and death, which are both necessary but often ugly or frightening parts of the circle of life, and Billy…

read analysis of The Circle of Life and Coming of Age

Faith and Prayer

Where the Red Fern Grows is a book with overt religious overtones. Set in the Ozarks in the 1930s, the novel focuses on a religious family, the Colmans, who believe not only in the legends and lore of their small mountain community but also in the power of prayer to transform one’s life. As Wilson Rawls investigates the role of religion and prayer in his characters’ lives, he ultimately suggests that faithful people are eager…

read analysis of Faith and Prayer
Get the entire Where the Red Fern Grows LitChart as a printable PDF.
Where the Red Fern Grows PDF

The Natural World

The majesty of the natural world is an important part of Where the Red Fern Grows. On nearly every page, there is some description of nature as the young Billy Colman tromps and tracks raccoons through the scenic Ozark mountains. Billy is under the spell of nature, and through Billy’s reverence for the beauty all around him—and his disdain for even the small “cities” miles and miles from his mountain home—Rawls argues that to…

read analysis of The Natural World

Masculinity and Emotion

Wilson Rawls’s Where the Red Fern Grows is a classic of children’s literature, but one of the most groundbreaking things about the novel is its treatment of masculinity and emotion. Throughout the novel, Wilson Rawls shows his protagonist Billy Colman emoting openly—and Rawls shows the majority of men in Billy’s life, including his father, doing the same and even encouraging Billy’s softer side. Rawls ultimately argues that society’s understandings of masculinity can—and absolutely should—make…

read analysis of Masculinity and Emotion