The book Sounder strikes me as quite unique, in that it gives a lot of detail, and yet most of the characters, even main characters like the boy and his father, are not named. The only character with a name is the dog, Sounder. And yet this seems so natural, that I didn't even notice it the first couple times I read the book.

Is there any special significance to the dog being the only named character? Why do none of the other characters have names?

1 Answer 1


Armstrong spoke to this point in an interview for Writer's Digest. Ultimately the goal was to universalise the characters, allowing the reader to place themselves into the story and to view the other characters as being representative of general themes rather than specific people with their own individual goals, hope and desires.

"If the boy's age was not given the reader could become a part of the story: 'The boy must be about my age.' Place and time kept vague, no name or description of the boy. . . . And no names for the family. With names they would have represented one family; without names they became universal--representing all people who suffer privation and injustice, but through love, self-respect, devotion, and desire for improvement, make it in the world."

Sounder - 1970 review - The Newbery Project

You might want to note that one of the characters from the book (the boy, now named as Moses Waters) appears in a subsequent novel by the same author; Sour Land

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