Wherein lies the appeal of tales of quests? Perhaps it is that a part of the human condition is an innate ‘striving-for,’ and for the vast majority of us the subject of our ‘striving-for’ is unknown (This is a point to be expanded on elsewhere). A quest has a distinct goal, and would furnish us with a subject to ‘strive-for,’ while the well-told tale of a quest might provide us with a vicarious outlet for our own unfulfilled and directionless ‘striving-for.’ It is this vicarious participation that accounts for our tendency to become sympathetic to the character who sets out on a quest, a sympathy that can allow us to ignore or downplay certain unpleasant characteristics that a protagonist may display. Of course, if a character displays noble or admirable traits, we may become even more deeply invested in the character’s fate or success, even if the character belongs to a culture that is foreign to us, and is the sort of character that we wouldn’t be able to come to know in the course of our lives.
Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence), of 'Winter’s Bone', is the sort of character that many of us would be unfamiliar with. She lives in the Ozarks and belongs to a community that is insular to the extreme. Her mother is an invalid of some sort while her father is a meth cook who’s MIA, which leaves the 17-year old Ree as the sole caretaker of her much younger brother and sister. Their father, unscrupulous as all hell, has skipped out on his bail, which shouldn’t affect Ree and her siblings except for the fact that he posted their house and surrounding lot for bond; unless he is found, the house will be forfeited to the bondsman, and the family turned out. Ree, a modern day Stoic whose mask barely slips throughout the entire film, accepts her burden with barely a blink. “I’ll find him,” she tells the sheriff who's informed her of her father’s truancy, and although the movie’s barely begun, we know that she will.