Themes and Characters

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Marty Preston is an eleven-year-old boy who's responsible enough to be trusted with a twenty-two caliber rifle for hunting. He takes care of his younger sisters as a matter of course. Being a part of a family requires his devotion, obligations, and unselfish love. When he finds a dog that he knows has been mistreated, his sense of justice and loyalty to his family are challenged. Once he decides to keep the dog, the lies, which go against his upbringing and his conscience, begin. He lies to his family, to his friend, to the grocery man, to the owner of the dog, and he pays the penalty for lying.

Shiloh is a two-year-old male beagle hound, white with brown and black spots, trained for hunting rabbits and small game. When Marty first spots him, Shiloh is rib-showing lean and strangely silent, as if he has had his bark beaten out of him. Although forced to take the dog back to his owner the first time he sees him, the second time Marty sees Shiloh, he decides to keep him for his own instead of returning him to a master who kicks him and starves him.

Judd Travers is a man of around thirty years who owns four hunting dogs, including Shiloh. He was abused as a child and has transferred that abuse to his animals. Marty does not like him because Judd once cheated the storekeeper out of money, he hunts deer out of season, and he mistreats his dogs. On the other hand, Ray Preston, Marty's father, is a man of principle and a good father and husband. He delivers mail out of the Friendly and Sistersville post offices and knows nearly everyone in the area. He abides by the unspoken rule that a neighbor does not get involved in another neighbor's business. Marty's mother, referred to as "Ma" throughout the...

(The entire section is 701 words.)