Chapter 6 Summary
Sounder still waits for his master and mother hums nearly all the time. The boy helps her string more clothesline, and in the spring he goes to work in the fields. He is younger than all the other workers, and he is often afraid and lonely. The boy also does yard work at the big houses, and one of the men asks how old he is, noting that the boy is a hard worker for someone so young. The boy does not remember his age; he just knows he has lived “a long, long time.”
Days, months, and seasons pass, but every time the restless boy wants to look for his father, mother tells him to wait, as it will not be much longer. The boy agrees that it will be a long journey, and he argues with his mother about going. He reminds her of all the great journeys she has told him about from the Bible, journeys taken by men like Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph. The Lord always watched over them, and He will do the same for the boy.
The state runs many traveling road camps, so it is hard for the boy to find them; prisoners also work in stone quarries and farms. The boy usually starts searching in autumn, after the harvest is finished. Each year people tell the boy they remember his father, but each time he gets there his father has been moved someplace else. Some guards taunt and ridicule the boy, as do some prisoners. Every time he sees a line of prisoners, the boy looks for his father, certain he will recognize his father’s walk; but he does not find him. The boy learns many things about how prisoners are treated and where to find refuge inside on cold nights.
Though he does not find his father, the journey helps the boy accomplish one amazing thing. He finds many discarded newspapers and magazines and teaches himself the rudiments of reading. When he is lonely, the boy tries to tell himself the wonderful stories his mother used to tell him; her stories always end just right and the characters are never afraid. Sometimes the boy tries to incorporate things he reads into his stories, but the endings never come out right and both he and the characters are afraid.
When he hears the wind in the trees above him, the boy thinks of the story his mother told him about King David. God told David that whenever he heard the wind moving in the trees, he would know God was fighting for him. The boy imagines the mighty army of David marching to victory, and he is no longer afraid. As he sleeps, the boy dreams and hears Sounder’s distinctive voice echoing through the lowlands.