Armstrong begins the book at a time that is particularly difficult for this family. The hunting is not going well, and money is scarce. The boy has stopped going to school because it is too long and too hard to walk there, especially in the winter. Armstrong sets up a fairly typical scenario when the father steals the ham to feed his family. This crime—done not out of a desire to do a wrong but out of a desire to survive—makes people question the motivations behind punishment. Armstrong also sets up the Sheriff and deputies as villains who take the father away with no regard for extenuating circumstances. They become even more monstrous when they shoot Sounder just to eliminate a nuisance. This chain of events illustrates the family's victimization by poor circumstance; they are tragically unable to improve their life or escape unscarred. Armstrong's decision to take two main characters out of the plot in Chapter 2 is an interesting one—the boy's father is taken off to jail and Sounder is shot and perhaps dead. This is a surprise, and one hardly expects the title character to be shot or killed at the beginning of a text. Armstrong sets us up to watch how the family, especially the boy, copes with the loss of both figures and what he does to try and fill the voids they leave. Their lives seem to become ever lonelier, as the boy points out each night as he goes to bed.