Night loneliness was always bad when the younger children had gone to bed, or when the father was not in the cabin. "Night loneliness is part fearing," the boy's mother had once said to him.
The concept of night loneliness is initially raised in the first chapter but is something that strikes the boy throughout the book. He feels alone and scared, especially as his two protectors—his father and his dog—are gone. When the sounds in the cabin are quieted, there is not much left. The emptiness there is consuming, and it nearly swallows the boy. When he looks for his father and his dog he fights against this loneliness and wants to find a way to prevail over it. Being consumed with the searches themselves distracts him from the loneliness he feels in their absence. The boy's mother indicates that part of the genesis of the loneliness is fear. The boy is afraid that his father and his dog will never come home, that he will feel lonely forever, and of what he will encounter when growing up. Night is when all is still except the mind, which races ahead, examining fears and doubts.
The boy was crying now. Not that there was any new or sudden sorrow. There just seemed to be nothing else to fill up the vast lostness of the moment.
The boy is so bereft at the loss of his father and dog in Chapter 3 that he cannot think of anything else to do other than cry. He has searched for his dog to no avail—he has wished and prayed and nothing has filled the loneliness or brought his father or dog back to him. The only thing he can think to do to fill the loneliness and emptiness is to put his tears in it. This quote shows how little the boy really has and what little solace and comfort is available to him.
Sounder might come home again. But you must learn to lose, child. The Lord teaches the old to lose. The young don't know how to learn it. Some people is born to keep. Some is born to lose. We was born to lose, I reckon .
This quote from chapter four points to the basic foundation of their lives—that they are poor sharecroppers who do not have much and whose lives involve more of losing than getting. The mother's words here are a bit late—she says this after the boy's father and dog are gone. He has already learned how to lose. She considers it their lot in life to reckon with events like the ones that befall them in the book. Another reason this quote is so significant is that is demonstrates the mother's matter-of-fact attitude concerning their hardships and the kind of life they have. She makes no apologies for the fact that they are the kind of people who tend to lose, but simply approaches it as an unchangeable fact of life—so unchangeable that it is something the boy needs to learn and accept. She is also unapologetic for the fact the boy must learn such a difficult lesson but simply sees his need for understanding and accepting it as a necessity. The boy's mother never pities herself or her son, nor does she encourage him to pity himself or anyone else. She understands the uselessness of self-pity and instead encourages the acceptance of loss as a fact of life, not something to mourn or fight.
The boy did not remember his age. He knew he had lived a long, long time.
This quote appears in chapter 6, when the boy begins working. The quote is representative of many aspects of the boy's life—first, that he honestly does not know how old he is. Most children know few things if they do not know their own age. Most children have birthday parties, cakes, and presents. The boy has none of those luxuries and does not even know when his birthday is or how many birthdays he has had. The quote also demonstrates how difficult the boy's life has been. Even though he is a boy and has not actually lived many years, it feels as if he has. The hardships he has experienced and endured are not those of a young boy, but those of a man. The boy feels old at a young age, which is indicative of the fact that he has not had much of a childhood. Childhood is usually associated with simplicity, innocence, and joy, but the boy has had a life sadly lacking in those qualities.
When life is so tiresome, there ain't no peace like the greatest peace—the peace of the Lord's hand holding you.
The boy's mother says this in chapter 8, just after his father died. This quote shows an internalization of the previous quote about learning how to lose. It also shows an unfailing belief in God and heaven, as the boy and his mother are almost happy for his father to finally be in a place where there are no pains or worries. This quote is also indicative of just how painful his father's life was, especially in the latter years. Death was welcome to him, and it provided the kind of relief, even joy, that life never could provide. The quote is also a testament to the family's unwavering belief in God, despite the tragic events that have befallen them.