Cliff Notes™, Cliffs Notes™, Cliffnotes™, Cliffsnotes™ are trademarked properties of the John Wiley Publishing Company. does not provide or claim to provide free Cliff Notes™ or free Sparknotes™. Free Cliffnotes™ and Free Spark Notes™ are trademarked properties of the John Wiley Publishing Company and Barnes & Noble, Inc., respectively. has no relation. Free Summary / Study Guide / Book Summaries / Literature Notes / Analysis / Synopsis
+Larger Font+
-Smaller Font-

Sounder by W. H. Armstrong - Free Online Book Summary


Previous Page | Table of Contents | Next Page
Downloadable / Printable Version




On the third day after the family had first enjoyed the ham, three uniformed officers arrive at the cabin; they force their way inside and arrest Father, accusing him of stealing a pig. The grease-stained tablecloth, the remnants of ham bone on the oak-slab, and the threads from Father’s overalls found at the pigsty are all the evidence the officers need to judge the black man as guilty. They rudely chain “the thieven nigger” and drag him to their police wagon. When Sounder sees his master being mistreated, he barks ferociously and comes after the officers. The sheriff tells the boy to hold the dog back; he warns that if the dog comes closer, he will shoot the animal.

The boy tries to hold back Sounder with all his strength, but the dog becomes uncontrollable as he watches Father being forcefully thrust into the wagon. When it starts to move, Sounder lunges forward, knocking the boy down in the process. When the deputy sees the dog chasing the wagon, he shoots Sounder, whose body goes limp and falls to the ground. Although his own head is throbbing in pain, the boy wants to run to Sounder, but he cannot make himself move; he is afraid to find out if the dog is dead or alive. When he hears Sounder’s agonizing cries, the boy forgets his own pain and races to his dog. Although Sounder is still alive, he is badly hurt. As the boy watches the blood ooze from the dog’s head, he is moved to tears. Mother tells her son to leave the dog alone, for animals like to die in peace and solitude. The boy reluctantly obeys his mother; but he cannot stand it for long. He goes back out to help Sounder. He finds the dog’s detached, blood-soaked ear, but Sounder is nowhere to be seen. He takes the ear home with him, believing it will bring him good luck.

That night the loneliness, which always pervades the cabin, is heavier than ever because of the absence of Father and Sounder. When the boy finally goes to bed, he puts the dog's ear under his pillow and makes a wish on it; he hopes that Sounder will survive and come home. It is an innocent and touching scene.


The scene of Father’s arrest in front of his whole family is a cruel and tragic event. The officers do not care that he has stolen a pig in order to feed his starving children; instead, they treat him brutally, chaining him and pushing him like a hardened criminal. Additionally, they warn the boy to hold back Sounder; if the dog comes close to them, the officers promise to shoot him. It is obvious that these white officers believe that blacks are simply no-good, sub-human creatures.

In sharp and ironic contrast to the Sheriff’s inhumanity is Sounder’s “humanity;” the dog’s devotion and concern for his master is extremely touching. Even though the boy tries with all his might to hold on to his dog, Sounder lunges away and towards the wagon that is departing with his master. When the deputy sees the approaching coon hound, he fires a shot that hits and fells Sounder.

The boy is also wounded. When Sounder pulls away from him, he is pushed to the ground, hitting his head. Then he watches as his dog is shot; now the boy is hurt, physically and emotionally. Both his head and his heart throb in pain. Though he wants to run to Sounder, he is afraid that he will find that his beloved dog is dead. When he finally hears Sounder howling in pain, he goes to help him, disregarding his own pounding head. He cries when he sees the blood oozing from the dog’s head.

Mother calls the boy away, saying that a dog likes to die alone. Dutifully, the boy at first obeys his Mother; but after a short time, he can stand it no longer. He goes back to help Sounder and is surprised to find that the dog is gone. Although the boy searches for his injured pet, the only thing that he can find is the dog’s severed and bloody ear, which he puts in his pocket to take home. The boy’s childish innocence and optimism can be seen in his hope that if he puts the dog’s ear under his pillow and makes a wish, Sounder will survive.

The father’s arrest is a turning point in the boy’s life. Now that he is the oldest male living in the family, he must take on lots of new responsibilities. Many changes in him will occur throughout the rest of the novel.

Previous Page
| Table of Contents | Next Page
Downloadable / Printable Version

Sounder by W. H. Armstrong Study Guide - Free BookNotes Plot Summary

Privacy Policy
All Content Copyright©TheBestNotes. All Rights Reserved.
No further distribution without written consent.
162 Users Online | This page has been viewed 3159 times
This page was last updated on 5/9/2017 8:50:57 AM

Cite this page: Staff. "TheBestNotes on Sounder". . 09 May 2017