Winter’s Bone


Daniel Woodrell

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Winter’s Bone Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Daniel Woodrell's Winter’s Bone. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Daniel Woodrell

The author of nine novels, Missouri native Daniel Woodrell is, to many, the literary ambassador to the Ozark mountains. Born in Springfield in 1953, Woodrell dropped out of high school at seventeen years old and enlisted in the Marines. He later attended the University of Kansas and received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He lives and writes in West Plains, Missouri, a small Ozark Mountain town near the Arkansas border, and his family’s ancestral home. He is well-known in the literary community for his “country noir” novels, books heavily inspired by—according to the author himself—“Greek conceptions of storytelling and tragedy.” Five of his nine novels have been chosen as New York Times Notable Books of the Year, and his novel Tomato Red won the PEN West Award for the Novel in 1999.
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Historical Context of Winter’s Bone

Winter’s Bone is set in the early 2000s, and much of the driving action takes place within the underworld of the Ozarks, especially concerning the methamphetamine trade that has, over the course of the last fifteen years, overtaken this rural American enclave. Similar to the place moonshine runners held in the underworlds of Appalachia and the Ozarks in the past, cooks of methamphetamine—or crank, as the characters in Winter’s Bone refer to it—are the modern-day outlaws hunted by both the authorities and rival cooks and dealers alike.

Other Books Related to Winter’s Bone

Daniel Woodrell’s work has been described as “country noir,” which can be characterized as an offshoot of the Southern Gothic literary tradition. From the mid-1920s on, writers like William Faulkner (As I Lay Dying; The Sound and the Fury,) Flannery O’Connor (Wise Blood and many short stories) and Carson McCullers (The Member of the Wedding; The Heart is a Lonely Hunter) wrote novels and stories that explored the macabre, the grotesque, and the absurd against the backdrop of the American South. Recurrent themes of decay, despair, and uncertain or changeable morality define much of the work within the Southern Gothic tradition, as does careful attention to the world of the physical, and the nature that characterizes the American South. Winter’s Bone follows in the footsteps of this tradition, as the physical atmosphere of the Ozark Mountains is just as important as the book’s emotional atmosphere, and the two seem to each grow out of and around each other as the novel unfolds.
Key Facts about Winter’s Bone
  • Full Title: Winter’s Bone
  • When Written: Early 2000s
  • Where Written: West Plains, MO
  • When Published: 2006
  • Literary Period: Contemporary fiction
  • Genre: Fiction; Country noir; Southern Gothic
  • Setting: Ozark Mountains, Missouri
  • Climax: Ree’s relatives lead her to an icy pond where her father’s body lies frozen in the water.
  • Antagonist: Uncle Teardrop; Merab; nature; methamphetamine
  • Point of View: Close third person perspective which tracks Ree Dolly.

Extra Credit for Winter’s Bone

Launching Lawrence. In 2010, an independent film adaptation of Winter’s Bone, written and directed by Debra Granik, was released to great critical acclaim. The film won the Grand Jury Prize for a dramatic film at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, and subsequently received four 2011 Academy Award nominations. It also helped to launch the career of Jennifer Lawrence, who has since 2015 been the highest-paid actress in the world. Winter’s Bone was filmed on location in rural Missouri on a modest two million dollar budget.

Close to home. Woodrell says he lived “for years” next door to a meth lab in his Ozark hometown, and kept a club at his front door for protection.