Sounder by W. H. Armstrong - Free Online Book Summary
After the death of his master, Sounder becomes increasingly sluggish; without Father, the dog seems to have no will to live. The boy believes that Sounder will grieve himself to death before long; therefore, before he leaves for school, he digs a grave for the dog under a big oak tree. Sounder is dead and is buried before the boy returns home for Christmas break. Although he has lost both Father and Sounder, the boy knows that somewhere in eternity, they are living together; he imagines his father walking upright with Sounder bounding after him.
Up until this chapter, the entire novel has been bleak and hopeless. The father has been arrested and sent away for trying to feed his family; the boy has been forced into an early manhood, struggling on the farm to try and provide for the family; Mother is lonely and desolate, constantly humming a sad tune; although Sounder survives the gun shot wound he receives, he is a changed animal with a small bark and no spirit. Then in this final chapter, the boy meets a kind teacher who changes his life. Recognizing the boy’s desire and potential for learning, the teacher suggests that the lad attend his school; he offers for the boy to live with him in order to earn his keep. Mother agrees that the boy should go to school each year after the harvest until planting time. In fact, she feels the teacher’s offer is a gift from God. She blesses her son, saying, “Go child, the Lord has come to you.” For the first time, the boy has some hope; there is light in his lonesome valley of darkness.
The boy’s return to the fields after spending the winters at school is markedly different from his returns to the fields after the quests to find his father. The latter journeys were sad, depressing, and full of disturbing experiences; in contrast, his stay at school raises his spirits, his hopes, and his dreams. For the first time in the book, he appears truly happy, cheerfully singing as he works in the fields.
Father finally returns home, but he is a changed man. Like Sounder, he is physically and spiritually wounded. So much has been broken within him that there cannot be any real mending; just like the schoolteacher had observed, “It is hard to reset the plant if its wilted too much.” With the return of the hunting season, both Father and Sounder try to re-establish life as it was, but it is a futile attempt. Both dog and man have had too much of life taken from them. As a result, Father soon dies while he is out hunting. Sounder leads the boy to the place where his lifeless form rests. Sounder soon follows Father in death.
Although Sounder and Father are gone, they live on in the boy, for “if a flower blooms once, it goes on blooming somewhere forever.” The boy is certain that dog and master are dwelling together somewhere for eternity. The boy now understands the meaning of Montaigne’s words that had once been a mystery to him: “Only the unwise think that what has changed is dead.” The boy accepts that there is, indeed, something eternal about life. He knows that somewhere the deep resonant voice of Sounder can still be heard.
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TheBestNotes.com Staff. "TheBestNotes on Sounder".
. 09 May 2017