Sounder is the story of a young African American boy's struggle to become literate. Featuring no named characters but the titular dog, Sounder, the narrative follows a family of black sharecroppers in an indeterminate American setting some time before the 1950s. When the father of the family is imprisoned for stealing a ham, his family struggles to survive. Eventually the father returns, maimed, and both he and his faithful hunting dog pass away peacefully. The son is able to learn to read with the help of a generous teacher.