at the end of winter’s bone, teardrop reveals
who he’s figured out who killed jessup, but he never gives the name to the reader. the movie doesn’t either. after watching the movie i searched the net to see if anyone had the answer and no one seemed to. now i’ve read the book, and while it doesn’t reveal the answer either, there’s enough information that i think i’ve got it.
jessup is a long-time meth cook who’s arrested and can’t make bail because he doesn’t have money to post the bond. he decides while being held in remand to turn informer rather than face a 10 year jail sentence. the sheriff is related to all the local criminals, and he passes word that jessup is going to inform. the gang jessup intended to rat out arranges to meet jessup’s bail by dropping off a paper bag full of cash at the bail bondsman’s office. with his bail met, jessup is involuntarily released from remand and this provides the gang the opportunity to kill him.
you are watching: Winter’s Bone ending explained – “I know who now.” (Heavy spoilers)
earlier in the book, jessup’s brother teardrop tells the protagonist ree (jessup’s daughter) that he has his suspicions:
“i can’t know who killed jessup, i can suspicion a man or two, have a hinky feelin’, but i can’t know for a certain fact…” then he lists the members of the gang he suspects is responsible: buster leroy, little arthur, cotton milton, whoop milton, dog, punch, hog-jaw, and “that droopy-eyed motherfucker sleepy john”.
at the end of the book, the bail bondsman visits ree and teardrop to give them the cash
who had been posted for the bond, which is theirs as closest living relatives now that it’s proved
who jessup is dead. ree asks the bondsman who originally came in with the cash, and he replies “the fella with no name? he never gave a name and, hell, i couldn’t say for sure the man was ever even all the way awake, but he was sure ‘nough good news for you-all when he put this down on jessup.”
See more: Who’s Who
boom. this is the precise moment when teardrop twigs. he can’t be sure it was sleepy john who actually put the bullet in jessup, but now teardrop knows he played a big part in setting up the hit, which in this context is enough for the appalachian justice train to start rolling out of the station. god, i’m proud of myself.