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.