During the 19th century a young African American boy and his very poor family lived in the South. The boy’s father is a small farmer and the family is stressed because of money problems and it is a really rough time for them. Sounder the family dog goes hunting is very close to the father and goes hunting with him every night. Each day the boy’s father and Sounder come back from hunting empty handed. One morning the boy wakes up and smells delicious food and sees that there is ham being cooked.
The father came back with ham but he stole it and knew theft was wrong but he didn’t want to see his family suffer. The family hadn’t h ad a decent meal in a long time. Not long later, three men accuse the boy’s father of stealing the ham. Right in front of the boy the three white men chain his father and take him away to prison. Sounder chases his father and the men who took him away, but the sheriff shoots Sounder. The boy’s mother thinks Sounder is dying and tells the boy to let him die in peace, the boy searches for Sounder but cannot find him.
The mother sells walnuts in town to support the family now that the father is in jail. Excited to see his father, the boy takes a cake that his mother made to the prison to give to his father. The guards are cruel to him and smash the cake before he takes it to his father. The father tells the family not to come back for future visits. The next morning Sounder comes home and is hurt badly, and the family hears and learns that their father has been sent off to do hard labor.
The next year the boy takes his father’s place in the fields. The boy is determined to find his father and after working searches for him and tries to educate himself. Years pass and the boy is still in search of his father. Then twelve men are killed in a blast and the father’s family believes that he might have been killed but the father’s name is not found on the deceased list. When the boy is returning home he sees a group of men working and while looking for his father an iron wedges into his skin.
He goes to a school and asks a teacher to help him and then tells the teacher of his life. The teacher offers him to stay with her and go to school and talks it over with his mother. So now during the school year he goes to school and then comes back home to work in the fields. Later that year in August father returns home, also in bad shape like sounder, they still go hunt together. The father dies in the woods and is buried. Two weeks before Christmas Sounder dies and the boy believes that the dog is with his father in heaven.