Sounder by W. H. Armstrong - Free Online Book Summary
When the boy continues to search for Sounder, the mother tries to give him some poignant advice. “You must learn to lose child. The Lord teaches the old to lose. The young don’t know how to learn it. Some people is born to keep. Some is born to lose. We was born to lose, I reckon.” Her words capture the fate of the blacks in America at the time; they had been suppressed for so long that they had come to accept suffering and loss as the only way of life.
The Bible stories that Mother has told the boy in the book have subtle parallels to the plot. The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is about three men who were taken from jail and thrown into a fire to burn; but the Lord had cooled the fire and saved the men. They supposedly sang a hymn to God, singing, “The Lord’s got green pastures and cool water.” Since Father is in jail, the boy finds hope in this; surely the Lord will also have mercy on his father while in jail. Another time the boy recalls the story of how Joseph was sold as a slave to work in the stone quarry; this Bible tale foreshadows Father’s future work as a prisoner.
Although it is Christmas time, there will be no celebration for the boy and his family; they have no holiday decorations, and there is no money for presents or food for a feast. Mother does, however, prepare a fancy cake for her husband and sends her son to take it to the jail. The boy is nervous about traveling alone through the white town on the way; he is also concerned about what he will say to his father once he arrives at the jail.
The boy is amazed to see and hear the sights and sounds of Christmas along the way. Houses are decorated, church bells are ringing, people are partying, and shops are filled with toys. This joyful scene is a stark contrast to the misery of the poor young boy, dressed in too big and patched overalls and carrying a cake for his father in jail; it is a marvelous visual contrast between poverty and plenty.
Along the way the boy has thoughtfully and carefully planned what he will say to his father; he wants to be certain that he reassures him that everything is fine at home. But his rude reception at the jail makes him forget everything. The jailer that he encounters is a nasty man, obviously calloused and prejudiced. He slams the door in the boy’s face and makes him sit and wait for a long time; then he cruelly and needlessly crumbles the cake, pretending to be searching for a weapon baked inside. Power has made him so haughty that he cares for no one but himself; prejudice has made him so insensitive that he takes pleasure in destroying the Christmas gift that a poor young black boy has brought his father. It is a sad commentary on man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.
The boy is hurt and angry over his treatment and the destruction of the cake and wants to strike out against his persecutor; but he knows he is helpless against this white bully. His desire to fight back foreshadows the blacks’ future refusal to silently endure the suffering inflicted by the white world.
The boy’s visit with his father is painful for both of them. The boy is so upset about what has happened, that he can barely talk to his father; he can certainly give the man no comfort or cheer. Instead, Father is distressed over the ordeal that his son has endured and saddened to see him so upset and confused. When the boy is ready to leave, Father tells him not to come back to the jail; he does not want to see his son harassed again. It is obvious that both father and son are kind and thoughtful people, in stark contrast to the cruel white jailer.
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TheBestNotes.com Staff. "TheBestNotes on Sounder".
. 09 May 2017