Chopping down the tree
Billy’s decision to chop down the great sycamore on his first time of hunting shows his commitment to hunting and is also a means to symbolize how he is growing increasingly independent of his parents.
He refuses to accept his father’s help and this demonstrates both his loyalty to his dogs and his increasing desire to show how he is able to solve his own problems.
The red fern
The eponymous red fern does not feature in the narrative until the last chapter and its significance is emphasized because of this rare but emblematic appearance.
Billy notices it has grown between the graves of his beloved dogs and the legend surrounding this plant is related. Because the red fern is associated with spirituality and goodness in a Native American legend, the dogs are also given this sanctification.
The trapped coon
Grandpa’s trick to trap a coon depends on the prior knowledge that coons are attracted to shiny objects, and that they are reluctant to let go of an object once they have a hold of it.
Tenaciousness is for the most part depicted as admirable in this novel, but not when the coon refuses to let go of the object even when it will allow it to be free. It now becomes a destructive and myopic act, and the story carries a moral lesson that warns the readers to choose freedom over the short-term prize.