Winter’s Bone

Ree Dolly Character Analysis

The protagonist of the novel, sixteen-year-old Ree Dolly is the primary breadwinner for and caretaker of her family. Stubborn, resilient, and introspective, Ree is charged with the task of turning up her missing father Jessup, who some time ago put up as his bail bond the house and land where Ree, her mother Connie, and her younger brothers Sonny and Harold live. Ree’s father’s court date is approaching, and if he does not show himself, the land will be repossessed. Ree’s journey to find her father becomes one not only of self-discovery, but of uncovering an entire network of violence, decadence, and secrecy throughout the Ozark underworld. Ree makes a name for herself in Rathlin Valley through her struggles with the neighboring Thump clan of Hawkfall, some of whose members may or may not be involved in her father’s disappearance.

Ree Dolly Quotes in Winter’s Bone

The Winter’s Bone quotes below are all either spoken by Ree Dolly or refer to Ree Dolly. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Back Bay Books edition of Winter’s Bone published in 2007.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“Never ask for what ought to be offered.”

Related Characters: Ree Dolly (speaker), Harold Dolly
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 2 Quotes

Ree’s grand hope was that these boys would not be dead to wonder by age twelve, dulled to life, empty of kindness, boiling with mean. So many Dolly kids were that way, ruined before they had chin hair, groomed to live outside square law and abide by the remorseless blood-soaked commandments that governed lives outside square law…The rough Dollys were scornful of town law and town ways, clinging to their own.

Related Characters: Ree Dolly, Sonny Dolly, Harold Dolly
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes

Ree needed often to inject herself with pleasant sounds, stab those sounds past the constant screeching, squalling hubbub regular life raised inside her spirit, poke the soothing sounds past that racket and down deep where her jittering soul paced on a stone slab in a gray room, agitated and endlessly provoked but yearning to hear something that might bring a moment’s rest.

Related Characters: Ree Dolly
Related Symbols: Ree’s Tapes
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

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Ree nearly fell but would not let it happen in front of the law. She heard thunder clapping between her ears and Beelzebub scratchin’ a fiddle. The boys and her and mom would be dogs in the field without this house. They would be dogs in the field with Beelzebub scratchin’ out tunes and the boys’d have a hard hard shove toward unrelenting meanness and the roasting shed and she’d be stuck along side them ‘til steel doors clanged shut and the flames rose. She’d never have her own concerns.

Related Characters: Ree Dolly, Sonny Dolly, Harold Dolly, Connie Dolly, Jessup Dolly, Deputy Baskin
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 4 Quotes

“Didn’t want you-all to fear we’d forgot you for good.”

Related Characters: Sonya (speaker), Ree Dolly, Sonny Dolly, Harold Dolly, Connie Dolly
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

“Don’t you, nor nobody else, neither, ever go down around Hawkfall askin’ them people shit about stuff they ain’t offerin’ to talk about. That’s a real good way to end up et by hogs, or wishin’ you was… Our relations get watered kinda thin between this valley here and Hawkfall.”

Related Characters: Uncle Teardrop (speaker), Ree Dolly
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 10 Quotes

“Settin’ out food’ll draw em close—that’s likely how they’ll come too close and get shot, Harold. Don’t set no goddam food out. It looks like you’re doin’ nice, but you don’t. You’re just bringin’ ‘em into range, is all.”

Related Characters: Ree Dolly (speaker), Sonny Dolly, Harold Dolly
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

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“He cooks crank.”
“Honey, They all do now. You don’t even need to say it out loud.”

Related Characters: Ree Dolly (speaker), Megan (speaker), Jessup Dolly, Little Arthur
Related Symbols: Crystal Meth / Crank
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

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“It’s been this way with our people forever, goddam it. For-fuckin’-ever. You go see Thump. Go up there’n knock gentle on his door, and wait.”

Related Characters: Megan (speaker), Ree Dolly, Thump Milton
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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To have but a few male names in use was a tactic held over from the olden knacker ways…Let any sheriff or similar nabob try to keep official accounts on the Dolly men when so many were named Milton, Haslam, Arthur or Jessup… Jessups, Arthurs, Haslams and Miltons were born to walk only the beaten Dolly path, live and die in keeping with those bloodline customs fiercest held.

Related Characters: Ree Dolly, Sonny Dolly, Harold Dolly, Jessup Dolly, Uncle Teardrop, Thump Milton
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 14 Quotes

“You son of a bitch. You go straight to hell’n fry in your own lard. Sonny’n Harold’ll die livin’ in a fuckin’ cave with me’n Mom before they’ll ever spend a single fuckin’ night with you. Goddam you, Blond Milton, you must think I’m a stupid idiot or somethin’—there’s horseweed standin’ chin-high inside that place!”

Related Characters: Ree Dolly (speaker), Sonny Dolly, Harold Dolly, Connie Dolly, Blond Milton
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 16 Quotes

“Somethin’ real wrong was goin’ on, and since then I’ve gone over it and over it in my head and think I finally get why he didn’t even nod my way. He was protectin’ me, see, by ignorin’ me. That’s when I understood your dad had loved me. I understood it from how he’d looked away.”

Related Characters: April (speaker), Ree Dolly, Jessup Dolly
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 21 Quotes

“Mom, I’m goin’ to need you to help. There’s things happenin’ that I don’t know what to do about. Mom? Look at me, Mom. Mom?” Ree waited kneeling for several minutes, kneeling as raised hopes fell to modest hopes, slight hopes, vague hopes, kneeling until any hope at all withered to none…She released Mom, stood and walked away into the shadows.

Related Characters: Ree Dolly (speaker), Connie Dolly
Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 23 Quotes

Ree pushed a mulish shopping cart in the Bawbee Store…The wheels were splayed like walleyes, so the cart would not easily go where it looked to be aimed bust screeched off-line in half-moon spins toward one side of the aisle, then the other.

Related Characters: Ree Dolly
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 25 Quotes

“I got two little brothers who can’t feed theirselves…My mom is sick and she is always goin’ to be sick. Pretty soon the laws’re takin’ our house away n’throwin’ us out…to live in the fields…like fuckin’ dogs. The only hope I got to keep our house is I gotta prove Dad’s dead. Whoever killed him, I don’t need to know that. I don’t never need to know that. If Dad did wrong, Dad has paid. But I can’t forever carry…them boys’n Mom…not…without that house to help.”

Related Characters: Ree Dolly (speaker), Sonny Dolly, Harold Dolly, Connie Dolly, Thump Milton
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 26 Quotes

“You own me now. Understand? You purty much own me now, girl. You do wrong, it’s on me. You do big wrong’n it’s me that’ll pay big.”

Related Characters: Uncle Teardrop (speaker), Ree Dolly
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 32 Quotes

This was how sudden things happened that haunted forever.

Related Characters: Ree Dolly (speaker), Uncle Teardrop
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Chapter 35 Quotes

Sonny said,“What’ll we do with all that money? Huh? What’s the first thing we’ll get?”
…Ree stood and stretched. Twilight dimmed the snow, but icicles overhead held that gleam. “Wheels.”

Related Characters: Ree Dolly (speaker), Sonny Dolly (speaker), Harold Dolly, Connie Dolly
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:

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Ree Dolly Character Timeline in Winter’s Bone

The timeline below shows where the character Ree Dolly appears in Winter’s Bone. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Violence and Decay Theme Icon
Isolation and Independence Theme Icon
Sixteen-year-old Ree Dolly stands on the front porch of her house in Rathlin Valley, Missouri, looking out... (full context)
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Isolation and Independence Theme Icon
Ree thinks of how her father, Jessup, didn’t split enough wood for a strong fire before... (full context)
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Isolation and Independence Theme Icon
Ree’s younger brother Harold emerges from the house wearing long johns. He stands with Ree and... (full context)
Chapter 2
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
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Ree’s mother, Connie, sits in a chair next to the stove, quiet and unmoving. Ree notes... (full context)
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Ree hopes that her brothers will not be “dulled to life” and “empty of kindness” by... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Isolation and Independence Theme Icon
Women and Matriarchy Theme Icon
Ree splits wood in the yard as the snow finally begins to fall. Wrapped in her... (full context)
Isolation and Independence Theme Icon
Just as the snow begins to cover Ree, a pair of headlights shine up the rut road to Ree’s house. She removes her... (full context)
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Isolation and Independence Theme Icon
Women and Matriarchy Theme Icon
The deputy tells Ree to ask him inside, as he needs to talk with her mother. Ree tells him... (full context)
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Violence and Decay Theme Icon
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Out on the porch, Baskin tells Ree that her father is out of jail on bond. “You know he cooks crank, don’t... (full context)
Chapter 4
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Isolation and Independence Theme Icon
Women and Matriarchy Theme Icon
...snow finally lets up near dusk. Harold and Sonny cough and sniffle, sick with colds. Ree reprimands them for not wearing their hats out in the snow. Connie, in a brief... (full context)
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
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Sonya asks Ree what the deputy was doing up at the house earlier, and Ree tells her that... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Ree decides to start her hunt for her father’s whereabouts with her uncle Teardrop, Jessup’s older... (full context)
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Violence and Decay Theme Icon
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When Ree arrives at Teardrop’s house, his wife Victoria opens the door. Ree is always surprised by... (full context)
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Violence and Decay Theme Icon
Isolation and Independence Theme Icon
...kitchen table, there is a pistol, a bag of marijuana, and a bag of crank. Ree explains her dire situation to Victoria, and tells her that they need to “run [Jessup]... (full context)
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Violence and Decay Theme Icon
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Ree protests, reminding Teardrop that much of the Ozark community is related, and asking if he... (full context)
Chapter 6
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Violence and Decay Theme Icon
On the walk back from Teardrop’s house, Ree sits on a stump to think. She imagines her ancestors, moonshiners and their wives, and... (full context)
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Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
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Ree remembers that her mother Connie finally lost her mind when Ree was about twelve, after... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Violence and Decay Theme Icon
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Before reaching home, Ree stops off at the Langans’ home; her best friend, Gail Lockrum, was “required by pregnancy”... (full context)
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Isolation and Independence Theme Icon
Women and Matriarchy Theme Icon
Ree and Gail go into Gail’s bedroom, where Ree fills her in on all that’s been... (full context)
Chapter 8
Isolation and Independence Theme Icon
Ree walks home. After a while she sits down on a big rock and puts her... (full context)
Chapter 9
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Women and Matriarchy Theme Icon
Ree washes Connie’s hair in the sink, showing Sonny and Harold how to properly care for... (full context)
Chapter 10
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Violence and Decay Theme Icon
Ree, Sonny, and Harold wait for the school bus while coyotes howl in the hills. Harold... (full context)
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Violence and Decay Theme Icon
Once the bus pulls up to the boys’ school, Ree warns Sonny and Harold not to get into any fights unless they do so in... (full context)
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
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When Ree arrives, a young woman emerges from one of the Hawkfall houses and asks who she... (full context)
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As they approach Little Arthur’s house, Megan warns Ree: “if he’s been runnin’ on crank for a day or two, you should just leave.”... (full context)
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
Isolation and Independence Theme Icon
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Megan tells Ree that if she wants information, she should go up the hill and request an audience... (full context)
Chapter 11
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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... (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. “Talkin’ just causes witnesses,” she says, “and... (full context)
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
Violence and Decay Theme Icon
Isolation and Independence Theme Icon
While waiting outside Thump Milton’s house, Ree distracts herself from the cold by trying to name all of the Miltons in her... (full context)
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
Violence and Decay Theme Icon
Isolation and Independence Theme Icon
Women and Matriarchy Theme Icon
...comes out from the house once again, this time with a cup of soup for Ree. She tells her to drink it and be on her way. Merab tells Ree that... (full context)
Chapter 12
Silence and Secrets Theme Icon
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
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Ree walks home along the railroad tracks, considering the ruins of old Dolly homes all around... (full context)
Family, Destiny, and Inheritance Theme Icon
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Ree finds shelter inside a cave. She starts a fire and urinates near the entrance to... (full context)
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Ree falls asleep, thinking of what might have become of Jessup. She wonders if he is... (full context)
Chapter 13
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Ree continues her walk home; all the while, ice and snow melt all around her. Ree... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Ree arrives home and falls asleep. When she wakes, it is late afternoon, and her brothers... (full context)
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Blond Milton drives Ree far out into the mountains. They eventually reach a burned-out house with a blown-open roof.... (full context)
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Ree gets out of the car and goes up to the house to take a look,... (full context)
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...offers to take Sonny—his biological son—off of her hands, and raise him as his own. Ree refuses. She tells Blond Milton to “go to hell,” and that she would rather raise... (full context)
Chapter 15
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Ree storms into the house and goes straight to her bedroom closet. She takes out two... (full context)
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Sonny and Harold love learning how to shoot, and once Ree is satisfied with their progress, she calls the lesson to an end. Sonny then sees... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Gail tells Ree that her husband has been cheating on her; he has been visiting his high school... (full context)
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Gail and Ree, with baby Ned in tow, begin their drive to Reid’s Gap. Gail tells Ree that... (full context)
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As Gail drives, Ree reminisces about how she and Gail used to practice kissing with each other when they... (full context)
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April is glad to see Ree. Ree tells April that she is looking for her father, and April tells Ree that... (full context)
Chapter 17
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On the drive back to Rathlin Valley, Ree and Gail are held up at the Twin Forks River by a farmer and his... (full context)
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Ree runs back to the truck, where Gail is changing Ned. Ree tells Gail that she... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Ree, back at home, falls asleep while listening to one of her nature tapes. She is... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Ree, Harold, and Sonny shoot at squirrels in the woods. After they’ve gotten three, Ree tells... (full context)
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...Gail emerges from the house, a cup of coffee in her hands. She watches while Ree tries to teach Sonny and Harold to skin and clean the squirrels, but the boys... (full context)
Chapter 20
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After dinner, full and happy, Ree relaxes on the couch. She falls asleep and has strange, unsettling dreams, though, and when... (full context)
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Teardrop gives Ree money, and advises her to sell off the timber acres “while [she] can.” he tells... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Ree dresses Connie in a hat and a coat and leads her outside. They walk along... (full context)
Chapter 22
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...returns after a moment with Ned’s diaper bag, drops it inside the house, and leaves. Ree reassures Gail that Floyd will come back, and Gail asks Ree if she noticed that... (full context)
Chapter 23
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At the supermarket in town, Ree pushes a broken shopping cart through the aisles—Ned sits in the basket, and Gail helps... (full context)
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Upon returning to the house, Ree sees a white car parked nearby; Blond Milton and another Dolly man are talking with... (full context)
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Mike tells Ree that she and her family have about thirty days left on their property before it’s... (full context)
Chapter 24
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Ree, back in Hawkfall, climps the hill to Thump Milton’s house once again. She wears her... (full context)
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Ree approaches the house. Merab looks out the door, then emerges from the house holding a... (full context)
Chapter 25
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Ree regains consciousness. She is in extreme pain; she can taste blood in her mouth; she... (full context)
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Megan crouches next to Ree and Merab and asks: “Whatever are we to do about you, baby girl?” Ree suggests... (full context)
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Ree lies down, sick and exhausted, covered in her own blood and excrement. She can hear... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 26
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On the drive home, Teardrop gives Ree a shotgun to hold “for if they come.” He pulls a baby-bottle of crank from... (full context)
Chapter 27
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Back at home, Gail helps Ree to clean herself. Ree is in tremendous pain, and she soaks in the bathtub, unable... (full context)
Chapter 28
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The women of Rathlin Valley pay Ree a series of visits. They fuss over her injuries and talk badly about the Thump... (full context)
Chapter 29
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Victoria visits Ree, who is trying, through a sleepy haze, to figure out how she will move all... (full context)
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Teardrop tells Ree that she took her beating as well as a man, but that he’s not “big... (full context)
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Ree asks Teardrop if their family will be forever shunned from now on. He tells her... (full context)
Chapter 30
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Ree eats breakfast and sends her brothers off to school. Harold offers to fight a couple... (full context)
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On the way out to the truck, Ree and Gail see some Dolly women off in the distance talking hushedly with some Hawkfall... (full context)
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While driving, Gail asks Ree what her plans are. Ree tells Gail that she will send Sonny to live with... (full context)
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Gail and Ree arrive at Bucket Spring—a freezing lake that Gail hopes will help to soothe and heal... (full context)
Chapter 31
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At home, Ree takes two kinds of pills and spends the day in bed. Harold and Sonny return... (full context)
Chapter 32
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In the middle of the night, Teardrop comes for Ree and wraps her in her grandmother’s coat. “Fuck this waitin’ shit,” he says. “Let’s go... (full context)
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Teardrop drives Ree around back roads, lamenting that he is too high to sleep, and that Victoria has... (full context)
Chapter 33
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The next morning, Ree, hungover and jittery, cleans out one of the hall closets. She shows her Harold and... (full context)
Chapter 34
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In the middle of the night, three fists knock at the door. Ree looks out the window and sees three women on the porch. She fetches her shotgun... (full context)
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Ree hears her brothers come to the door behind her. She tells them to stay inside... (full context)
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When they arrive at their destination, Merab tells Ree that once the burlap sack is off her head, she should not try to memorize... (full context)
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Merab hands Ree a chain saw—“How else you goin’ to get his hands,” she asks. Ree refuses to... (full context)
Chapter 35
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The next day, Baskin is called to come for Jessup’s hands. When he asks how Ree obtained the hands, she tells him that someone “flung em up on the porch” the... (full context)
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When Ree’s brothers arrive home from school, she tells them that their father is dead and gone... (full context)
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The following day, Ree cleans out her father’s shed. She finds a pair of his old boxing gloves, and,... (full context)
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A while later Teardrop arrives at the house, and Ree thinks that he looks tired and unshaven. He watches while the boys fight. Teardrop tells... (full context)
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...Mike Satterfield, and he approaches the house with a plastic sack in hand. He hands Ree the sack, telling her it “looks like [she] earned this with blood.” The sack is... (full context)
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Mike leaves, and Teardrop tells Ree that he now knows who killed Jessup. Ree embraces Teardrop, and then he leaves. Ree... (full context)