What I want to talk about is description. How things are laid out within the story presents something that sparks a conversation with the reader, affecting how the story is read and understood.
Woodrel doesn’t just present his characters by describing them directly. He uses other methods I find interesting and also like. For example, Ree is describes by what she does and her relationships with other people. Not just that though. Also what she thinks and sees in the world seems to make a difference.
The narrator’s descriptions of the physical environment in which Ree lives lends much to the story. Throughout the book, little pieces, fragments of the truth are dropped throughout the pages in this poetic way. Woodrell arranges this trail of fragments in such a way that it makes the reader think. This is where the dialogue between the book and reader comes in.
There are many descriptions of the world within Winters Bone that speak far beyond their surface meaning, and spark something deeper. On page 13, Ree took note of how Virginia smelled, she liked it. This occurred twice, in two separate but close together parts of the book. Once when she first saw Virginia and they spoke. Then when Ree is walking away from Virginia’s and Teardrop’s house, back home, Ree notices the pleasant smell of Virginia on her sleeves. In truth, the smell is less of Vieginia, and probably more marijuana. The connection can be made after Virginia offers to roll Ree a “doobie” for her walk back home, along with the direct relation of Virginias scent to weed on page 13. To the question of offering a joint, we are left without a direct answer as to whether or not Ree accepts it, but it can assume she took Virginia up on it when directly after that question, description of altered consciousness follows. (15) “She took to pausing more often to study on things that weren’t usually of interest.”
Why does Virginias relationship to dope matter? Woodrell may be assigning characters in the book different drugs to help represent them. Virginia, is involved with weed. In this first section of the book she is the only one who makes any mention of it. This observation is in contrast to Teardop, a violent fellow who seems much more interested in the bag of crank on the table he examines in the light. Drawing away from these two characters, Rees mother and father both have their own drugs. Her dad, Jessup, is a meth cook and her mother is hooked on anti-depressants. Then, Ree’s two brothers, neither of which do drugs, seem to like booze. They aren’t drinkers and the only time they drink alcohol is when Ree gives them some mixed with honey for the hoarse throats they both have from coughing. It is nothing to take note of until later on page 20 there is a funny moment when her brother Sonney brings it up again.
““Sonny called forth a shallow cough and said, “Got’ny more of that syrup?”
“Huh-uh. You two like it too much.” Replies Ree
“It sure gets rid of that scratchy feelin’ good, though.””
It is kind of a funny moment, possibly darkened with foreshadowing, and it wouldn’t be anything to think of really accept I cannot think of a single person who has ever thought Cough medicine tasted good. However, for some reason these two little guys seems to be taking a liking to it. it is a humorous moment connecting them with alcohol, possibly speaking for their future.
This is only a small piece of the book, but their might be some purpose to it. I see characters connected to their different drugs in ways that speak for them. These drugs represent part of them in a way, and at the same time, speak for Ree as well.
Drugs have their connotations. Weed, is much different than meth. Both are very different from alcohol and pharmaceutical antidepressants. It might be argued that I am a little wrong here, but I would like to continue on my train of thought and say that they are at least thought of in different ways. Meth and tweakers go together in a way different from how alcoholics and alcohol do, same with weed and stoners. It seems that through the way these characters are initially presented through their connection to specific drugs, we are taught something about them through that connection.
Now I want to go into the actual description of environment. For their reality, the crude imperfections and the history and even future of this world we are reading about, makes things pop. Everything becomes real.
On page 16. The description of Gail and Floyds property: a small single wide trailer with a crappy barn close enough to its deck that one could pee on the side of it is mentioned with importance enough to tell us that part of the barns wood had been discolored by the time people had spent peeing on it from the houses deck. This simple observation throws a lot of weight. Along with learning that the property is inherited, and falling apart. A history of that family is painted by such description; I see them slowly falling into that description.
The description shows years of people not really caring, having other things to worry about, and not having money to fix things needing fixed. It gets to the point that a sort of game has been made of pissing on a barn that has been in the family for generations. This little piece is like the charry on a banana spilt, topping it all off with a purposeful punctuation point.
The next little slice comes on page 18. “A giant Beer mug filled brown with pennies sat on the dresser. The bed was an unmade wallow of yellow sheets and patchwork blankets.’ From these two sentences these words might come to mind: Poor, Beer, Dirty, and Old – with a hint of love and care. Poor, because if someone goes through the trouble of saving a mug full of only pennies, they are probably poor; so poor in fact, that they have scraped that mug out of desperation for any change that does not include pennies, leaving only pennies. The beer part goes along with the beer mug of course, it makes sense. Any connotations that go along with beer are directly given to us through a lense of poorness and our own experiences and understanding of alcohol and poverty. Next, dirty, because yellow sheets sound gross. Piss and long periods of sweat and bodies sleeping on them comes to mind. Sheets that were probably once white, becomes an automatic assumption, along ith an understanding of why cleaning them is not at the top of the bucket list. Old is thoughts of from the description because a patchwork blanket and dirty sheets are usually old. Even the pennies scream some age. It takes a while to get a mug of only pennies. The love part comes last. A “patchwork blanket”, not only patches but “patchwork”. It involves thread and hands that are used to sewing. The old blanket is loved and cared for, it is needed for warmth. Love comes from the time and care put into that “patchwork blanket”.
Then again though, here is the dialogue that has been created between Woodrell and the reader. This blanket can make us think thriftiness and a number of other things as well. It does not inherently symbolize love. I think the fact that my lovely grandmother made quilts, which I associate with patchwork must have an influence on me thinking about love. These are just my connections with the text. They are not the only conversation.
So here’s the point. Throughout this story, so many pieces, slices of life, are intentionally laid out for the reader to digest. I think the author does this very well. The story poetically speaks for itself in dialogue with whoever reads it. This isn’t a telling of events. It is a sharing of pieces that can be related with.
One last piece. Page 20. “Pine trees with low limbs spread over fresh snow made a stronger vault for the spirit than pews and pulpits ever could”. Ree is closely related with nature. She longs to get away. She finds solace in nature, parts of nature anyway. This is important to the story as well. Equally important is Ree’s constant listening to nature sounds that she would never find in the nature that she seeks solace in around her home. In her world.