Chapter 7 Summary

When the boy arrives home from each long trip, Sounder hobbles down the road to greet him. Sounder wags his tail and paws the boy with his one good front leg but never makes any sound but a whine. When the boy tells his mother the bits of news he heard about where father might be, mother remains silent. A dynamite blast in a quarry killed and wounded some prisoners, but mother has the people she works for read the newspaper reports to her, and none of the victims is her husband.

Months of searching turn into years, and mother just adds more clothesline so she can do more laundry. She wishes the boy would quit looking, but every time he hears some hopeful scrap of information, she sends him some food and watches him go. Mother seems to understand his need to keep looking, even though his journeys have been fruitless so far.

One day the boy is looking intently at a group of prisoners through an iron mesh fence and is stunned when a cruel guard smashes the boy’s hands against the fence with a piece of iron. Blood drips from his crushed fingers as the guard laughs and the prisoners say and do nothing in response. The boy is certain none of them is his father, for he would have attacked the guard for abusing his son. The guard does not like that the boy is defiant and has not run; as he finally leaves, the boy imagines himself in one of his mother’s Bible stories. The boy is David and the guard is Goliath; the boy wishes he could see the awful man fall in defeat.

Later the boy sees someone dump a book in the trash and retrieves it. It is a book of stories, but he does not understand much of it. He carries the book tightly as he passes two schools. At the second one, the boy stops to watch. Soon students are dismissed and they gather around the boy. For once he is not afraid to be among strangers. The white-haired teacher sees the boy and enlists his help on a small project; then he takes the boy to his house. The gentle teacher tells the boy the book he is carrying was written by Montaigne and it is a book everyone should read but no one does. The man settles in to his comfortable cabin and reads the boy one of the stories in his book. The kind old gentleman soaks the boy’s injured hands and then prepares him a cot for the night. The man asks the boy to tell him about himself, and the boy begins by telling him everything about his father and Sounder.