“It’s hard for a man to stand and watch an old hound fight against such odds, especially if that man has memories in his heart like I had in mine. I had seen the time when an old hound like that had given his life so that I might live.”(p. 2) This reference comes in the first chapter when Billy is now an adult and he looks back to the past. This chapter is used to set the scene for him to look back to the time he used to own such hounds, and therefore introduces the rest of the novel.
“There was a story in those cups – a story that went back more than half a century.”(p. 6)This is a further indication of how the first chapter is used to look back to the past and to introduce this time to the readers.
“I looked up again to the names carved in the tree. Yes, it was all there like a large puzzle. Piece by piece, each fit perfectly until the puzzle was complete. It could not have happened without the help of an unseen power.” (p. 48)In this quotation, the power of God is invoked (as it is throughout the novel). Here, Billy unquestioningly attributes events that happen in his favor to Him.
“A man’s children should have an education. They should get out and see the world and meet people.” (p. 52) The poverty of Billy’s childhood is barely touched upon as the focus remains largely on him and his relationship with his dogs. Occasionally, however, the narrative critiques the poverty that he and his neighbors endure.
“I know,” said Papa. “It’s alright with me, but women are a little different than men. They worry more.” (p. 70) Male characters tend to dominate this novel and when females appear, as Billy’s mother and sisters, they are seen only through the eyes of an adolescent male or a stereotyping husband.
“In fact, I think it would be a good thing if all young boys had to cut down a big tree like that once in their life. It does something for them. It gives them determination and will power. That’s a good thing for a man to have. It goes a long way in his life. The American people have a lot of it. They have proved that, all down through history, but they do with a lot more of it.” (p. 89) Grandpa is quoted here and through his voice connection between hard-work, determination and being American is made. In this light, the novel becomes nationalistic as it openly brings together characteristics that are regarded as being central to a national character.
“I heard something I had heard many times. The sound was like the cry of a small baby. It was the cry of a ringtail coon when he knows it is the end of the trail. I never liked to hear this cry, but it was all in the game, the hunter and the hunted.” (p. 141) This reference highlights the callousness required of the successful hunter and parallels may be drawn with a less than sympathetic interpretation of the concept of the survival of the fittest. However, it should also be pointed out that in this instance Billy decides not to kill the animal (the ‘ghost coon’).
“They won’t take anything away from each other, and everything they do, they do it as one.” (p. 170) The special bond between Old Dan and Little Ann is encapsulated in this quotation.
“You can read every day where a dog saved the life of a drowning child, or lay down his life for his master. Some people call this loyalty. I don’t. I may be wrong, but I call it love – the deepest kind of love.”( p. 214) Mr. Kyle, a fellow entrant in the hunting championship, is quoted here as he expands on the relationship between humans and dogs. This reference also typifies the bond between Billy and his dogs as they go on to save his life.
” The story went on to say that only an angel could plant the seeds of a red fern, and that they never died; where one grew, that spot was sacred. ” (p. 246) The legend of the eponymous red fern belongs to a Native American tradition and it is repeated here to validate the importance of this new growth that has appeared between the graves of Billy’s dogs.