Otis in Because of Winn-Dixie

Instructor: Wardah Khan

Wardah loves working with students from diverse backgrounds and has taught in many settings; she has a master's degree in Elementary Education.

Otis is one of the characters in ''Because of Winn-Dixie'' by Kate DiCamillio. Although a bit strange when first introduced, he later becomes an important friend to the narrator India Opal Buloni.

Who is Otis?

You know that old saying, 'you can't judge a book by its cover'? Well this is very true of Otis in Kate DiCamillio's Because of Winn Dixie. So who is Otis, well let's find out.

Otis is an employee at Gertrude's Pets. He meets the narrator, Opal, when she visits the store to buy a collar for her dog, Winn-Dixie. Otis allows Opal to work at the store in order to pay for the collar. Through this arrangement, they become friends.

Otis is described as a rather quiet man, with thick black hair. He is often described as looking down when confronted by others. Although his shy demeanor tends to portray him as a bit awkward, he also has a side that reveals a more outgoing personality.

Otis and the Animals

Otis has a parrot named Gertrude (named after the store owner) who keeps him company. We learn that him and Gertrude share a complimentary friendship since Gertrude is talkative and Otis tends to be quieter.

One day, Opal discovers Otis playing his guitar for all the animals, each one out of their cage! She described it as 'the prettiest music I have ever heard in my life' as she watched him play with his eyes closed and wearing cowboy boots. The animals, from snakes to lizards to mice to birds, were mesmerized, as if the music had put them under a spell. The animals love Otis, and he cares deeply about them as well.

Otis and Jail

Otis describes the feeling of being locked up when he reveals that he has been in jail. Opal is curious about why Otis was in jail. She defends him when Stevie Dewberry insults Otis calling him a 'retard' who has been in jail. This shows that even though Opal was unsure about Otis's jail time, she still trusted their friendship. Later, she worries that Otis might be a dangerous person since he was a criminal.

When she confronts him, he explains that he was playing music in public, and when the police tried to stop him, he hit them. This is why he no longer plays his music anywhere outside, only in the pet store.

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