Winter’s Bone


Daniel Woodrell

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Winter’s Bone: Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

On the drive back to Rathlin Valley, Ree and Gail are held up at the Twin Forks River by a farmer and his wife—a rockslide has damaged their hog pen, and fifty or so hogs have escaped through the gap in the pen onto the road. While the farmers corral their herd, Gail nurses Ned. Ree gets out of the truck to go help the farmers, and as she is assisting them, she hears the sound of a familiar motor. She looks over her shoulder and sees Jessup’s Capri coming down the road. Ree attempts to wave the car down, but whoever is driving makes a U-turn and heads in the opposite direction.
Rural life impedes on Ree’s journey here literally as well as metaphorically. Yet Ree’s goodness and her understanding of both duty and the interconnectedness of her community inspires her to help her neighbors. When Ree spots her father’s car so close to April’s house, she is full of hope—but when the car ominously turns away, Ree is distressed and confused.
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Ree runs back to the truck, where Gail is changing Ned. Ree tells Gail that she saw her father’s car, and that they need to follow it. Gail tries to chase the car’s tail lights, but is unable to go fast enough to keep up. The truck spins out, and Gail suggests they abandon the chase and head home. Ree agrees, deciding that whoever was driving couldn’t have been her father: “Why would he be runnin’,” she asks, “if he saw me wavin’?”
Gail’s motherly duties are interrupted; this is a metaphor for how violence and mayhem permeate every aspect of this society, and how cyclical abandonment of everyday responsibilities in the face of urgent, unpredictable ones creates a culture of instability and, often, danger. The fact that someone else is probably driving Jessup’s car and doesn’t want Ree to see them is not a good sign.
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