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The scene of Father's arrest in front of his whole family is a cruel and tragic event. The officers do not care that he has stolen a pig in order to feed his starving children; instead, they treat him brutally, chaining him and pushing him like a hardened criminal. Additionally, they warn the boy to hold back Sounder; if the dog comes close to them, the officers promise to shoot him. It is obvious that these white officers believe that blacks are simply no-good, sub-human creatures.
In sharp and ironic contrast to the Sheriff's inhumanity is Sounder's "humanity;" the dog's devotion and concern for his master is extremely touching. Even though the boy tries with all his might to hold on to his dog, Sounder lunges away and towards the wagon that is departing with his master. When the deputy sees the approaching coon hound, he fires a shot that hits and fells Sounder.
The boy is also wounded. When Sounder pulls away from him, he is pushed to the ground, hitting his head. Then he watches as his dog is shot; now the boy is hurt, physically and emotionally. Both his head and his heart throb in pain. Though he wants to run to Sounder, he is afraid that he will find that his beloved dog is dead. When he finally hears Sounder howling in pain, he goes to help him, disregarding his own pounding head. He cries when he sees the blood oozing from the dog's head.
The father's arrest is a turning point in the boy's life. Now that he is the oldest male living in the family, he must take on lots of new responsibilities. Many changes in him will occur throughout the rest of the novel.