In the emotional climax of the novel, Ree Dolly, with the help of Merab and two other Thump women, finally finds her father Jessup’s body. Ree’s search for Jessup has formed the entirety of the novel’s physical and emotional structure, and her discovery of his corpse—frozen beneath the surface of an icy lake—is both redemptive and horrific. In order to prove to the law that Jessup is in fact dead—and thus retain the deed to her home and her land—Ree and the Thump women use a chainsaw to sever both of Jessup’s hands from his body so that Ree can deliver them to the authorities. Jessup’s severed hands represent the severance and the destruction of many things: of Ree from whatever small shreds were left of her childhood and innocence; of the code of silence in Ree’s labyrinthe Ozark community; of Ree from her father’s legacy. The severed hands, though grotesque, symbolize a sort of freedom and a new way forward for Ree. With the sacrificial offering of Jessup’s hands, she can make a new life for herself and her younger brothers, one that seeks to creep out from beneath the shadow of her outlaw father.
Jessup’s Hands Quotes in Winter’s Bone
“We’ll carry you to your daddy’s bones, child. We know the place.”