I’ll Give You the Sun

by

Jandy Nelson

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on I’ll Give You the Sun can help.

Benjamin Sweetwine / Dad Character Analysis

Noah and Jude’s father and Dianna’s husband, Benjamin, is a scientist who studies parasites. A deeply rational man, Benjamin seems intimidated by and contemptuous of his wife and children’s beliefs in the supernatural and the mystic, and has a hard time relating to all three of them. He also could not be more different from his mother, Grandma Sweetwine, who embodies those beliefs in the supernatural more fully than anyone else. Benjamin figures in the background of most of the novel, but his contentious relationship with his children is tested when Dianna dies, leaving him in charge of bringing up two very different individuals, who have been traumatized by loss in very different ways. Ultimately, Benjamin is able to come to terms with his own grief when Noah finally tells the truth about Dianna wanting a divorce so that she could marry Guillermo. This revelation allows Benjamin to move on and try to embrace “mystery” and adventure in life again, just as Dianna was always pushing him to do.

Benjamin Sweetwine / Dad Quotes in I’ll Give You the Sun

The I’ll Give You the Sun quotes below are all either spoken by Benjamin Sweetwine / Dad or refer to Benjamin Sweetwine / Dad. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Identity and Codependency  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dial Books edition of I’ll Give You the Sun published in 2014.
Chapter 1 Quotes

[Jude] scoots over so we’re shoulder to shoulder. This is us. Our pose. The smush. It’s even how we are in the ultrasound photo they took of us inside Mom and how I had us in the picture Fry ripped up yesterday. Unlike most everyone else on earth, from the very first cells of us, we were together, we came here together. This is why no one hardly notices that Jude does most of the talking for both of us, why we can only play piano with all four of our hands on the keyboard and not at all alone, why we can never do Rochambeau because not once in thirteen years have we chosen differently. It’s always: two rocks, two papers, two scissors. When I don’t draw us like this, I draw us as half-people.

The calm of the smush floods me. She breathes in and I join her. Maybe we’re too old to still do this, but whatever. I can see her smiling even though I’m looking straight ahead. We exhale together, then inhale together, exhale, inhale, in and out, out and in, until not even the trees remember what happened in the woods yesterday, until Mom’s and Dad’s voices turn from mad to music, until we’re not only one age, but one complete and whole person.

Page Number: 17-18
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

A week after Dad’s forgotten birthday, with the rain beating the crap out of the house, Mom and Dad seat Jude and me in the frozen part the living room no one ever sits in to inform us that Dad’s temporarily moving down to the Lost Cove Hotel. […] Mom tells us he’ll be renting a studio apartment by the week until they can work out some issues they’re having.

Even though we haven’t spoken in forever, I can feel Jude’s heart clenching and unclenching inside my chest with mine.

“What issues?” she asks, but after that the rain gets so loud I can’t hear what anyone’s saying anymore. I’m convinced the storm’s going to bust down the walls. Then it does and I’m remembering Dad’s dream because it’s happening. I watch as the wind sweeps everything off the shelves: knickknacks, books, a vase of purple flowers. No one else notices. I grip the armrests of the chair tight.

(Family Portrait: Assume the Crash Position)

I can hear Mom’s voice again. It’s calm, too calm, yellow fluttering birds that don’t belong in this life-bucking tempest. “We still love each other very much,” she says. “We just both need some space right now.” She looks at Dad. “Benjamin?”

Related Characters: Noah Sweetwine (speaker), Jude Sweetwine (speaker), Dianna Sweetwine / Mom (speaker), Benjamin Sweetwine / Dad
Page Number: 259-260
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

Dad drove us to the post office to mail off the applications. We couldn’t find a parking spot so Dad and Noah waited in the car while I went in. That’s when I did it. I just did it.

I only mailed mine.

I took from my brother the thing he wanted most in the world. What kind of person does that?

Not that it matters, but I went back to the post office the next day, ran all the way there, but the garbage had been emptied. All his dreams got taken out with the trash. Mine went straight to CSA.

I kept telling myself I would tell Noah and Dad. I would tell them at breakfast, after school, at dinner, tomorrow, on Wednesday. I would tell Noah in time so he could reapply, but I didn’t. I was so ashamed—the kind that feels like suffocating—and the longer I waited, the more the shame grew and the more impossible it got to admit what I’d done. Guilt grew too, like a disease, like every disease. There weren’t enough diseases in Dad’s library. Days kept passing, then weeks, and then, it was too late. I was too scared if I confessed, I’d lose Dad and Noah forever, too cowardly to face it, to fix it, to make it right.

This is why my mother destroys everything I make. This is why she can’t forgive me.

Page Number: 305
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

“How do you feel about moving? Not out of Lost Cove but to another house. […] A houseboat.” I can’t decide what’s more amazing: the words coming out of Dad’s mouth or the expression on his face. […] “I think we need an adventure. The three of us together.”

“You want us to live on a boat?” I ask.

“He wants us to live on an ark, ” Noah answers, awe in his voice.

“I do!” Dad laughs. “That’s exactly right. I’ve always wanted to do this.” Really? News to me. Um, who is this man? “I just did some research and you will not believe what’s for sale down by the marina.” He goes to his briefcase and pulls out some pictures he must’ve printed from the Internet.

“Oh wow,” I say. This is no rowboat. It is an ark.

“An architect owned it previously,” Dad tells us. “Renovated the whole thing, did all the woodwork and stained glass herself. Incredible, isn’t it? Two stories, three bedrooms, two baths, great kitchen, skylights, wraparound decks on both floors. It’s a floating paradise.”

Noah and I must register the name of the floating paradise at the exact same moment, because we both blurt out, imitating Mom, “Embrace the mystery, Professor.”

The name of this houseboat is The Mystery.

Related Characters: Noah Sweetwine (speaker), Jude Sweetwine (speaker), Benjamin Sweetwine / Dad (speaker), Dianna Sweetwine / Mom
Page Number: 356-357
Explanation and Analysis:

I glance around the room, sensing Mom so much, certain this is what she wanted. She knew we each held an essential part of the story that needed to be shared. She wanted me to know she saw the sculptures and only Guillermo could tell me that. She wanted Guillermo and Dad to hear the truth from Noah. She wanted me to tell Noah about CSA and maybe I wouldn’t have found the courage if I hadn’t come to Guillermo, if I hadn’t picked up a chisel and hammer. She wanted us in Guillermo’s life, and he in ours, because we are, each one of us for the other, a key to a door that otherwise would’ve remained locked forever.

Page Number: 367
Explanation and Analysis:

Our connection is still so natural, though now, for me, it’s tinged with guilt because of Dad. I turn back to my clay model, start caressing my mother’s shoulder into shape, her upper arm. “It’s like some part of me knew,” I tell him, working the bend of her elbow. “I don’t know what I knew, but I knew I was supposed to be here. You made me feel better too. So much better. I was so locked in.”

“This is what I think,” he says. “I think maybe Dianna, she break your bowls, so you come find a stone carver.”

I look at him. “Yeah,” I say, the back of my neck tingling. “Me too.”

Because who knows? Who knows anything? Who knows who’s pulling the strings? Or what is? Or how? Who knows if destiny is just how you tell yourself the story of your life? Another son might not have heard his mother’s last words as a prophecy but as drug-induced gibberish, forgotten soon after. Another girl might not have told herself a love story about a drawing her brother made. Who knows if Grandma really thought the first daffodils of spring were lucky or if she just wanted to go on walks with me through the woods? Who knows if she even believed in her bible at all or if she just preferred a world where hope and creativity and faith trump reason? Who knows if there are ghosts (sorry, Grandma) or just the living, breathing memories of your loved ones inside you, speaking to you, trying to get your attention by any means necessary? Who knows where the hell Ralph is? (Sorry, Oscar.) No one knows.

So we grapple with the mysteries, each in our own way.

Page Number: 369
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire I’ll Give You the Sun LitChart as a printable PDF.
I’ll Give You the Sun PDF

Benjamin Sweetwine / Dad Character Timeline in I’ll Give You the Sun

The timeline below shows where the character Benjamin Sweetwine / Dad appears in I’ll Give You the Sun. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Identity and Codependency  Theme Icon
Magic and the Supernatural  Theme Icon
The next night at dinner, Noah, Jude, and their parents, Dianna and Benjamin Sweetwine, are gathered around the table. Mom announces that earlier that day, Benjamin’s deceased mother,... (full context)
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
Magic and the Supernatural  Theme Icon
Dad speaks up to remind Noah and Jude to listen to their mother’s story “metaphorically,” but... (full context)
Art, Self-Expression, and Communication Theme Icon
Magic and the Supernatural  Theme Icon
Mom chides Dad for his practicality and urges him to “embrace the mystery.” As everyone eats their dinner,... (full context)
Art, Self-Expression, and Communication Theme Icon
Magic and the Supernatural  Theme Icon
Dad reminds Mom—a professor of art and art history—that going to art school might be too... (full context)
Identity and Codependency  Theme Icon
Art, Self-Expression, and Communication Theme Icon
Magic and the Supernatural  Theme Icon
Dad and Mom, on the brink of an argument, order “NoahandJude” to take their plates into... (full context)
Chapter 3
Identity and Codependency  Theme Icon
Art, Self-Expression, and Communication Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Fear Theme Icon
Noah, up on the roof, uses Dad’s binoculars to scan the neighborhood and make sure that Zephyr and Fry aren’t waiting nearby... (full context)
Identity and Codependency  Theme Icon
The twins’ father appears in the doorway and asks if everything is okay—both of them nod. Noah reminisces... (full context)
Art, Self-Expression, and Communication Theme Icon
Magic and the Supernatural  Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Fear Theme Icon
Dad leaves the room, and Jude asks Noah if he wants to play Ouija board—she has... (full context)
Chapter 4
Identity and Codependency  Theme Icon
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
...she would be “cool” with him and his friends having a house party while their father’s away for the week. Jude can’t do anything but stare at her brother, whom she... (full context)
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
Benjamin appears in the doorway. Jude muses on how her dead parent is more present than... (full context)
Art, Self-Expression, and Communication Theme Icon
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
The parrot next door begins squawking about Ralph, and Benjamin, Noah, and Jude roll their eyes in unison. Jude’s dad begins asking her a question... (full context)
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
Jude opens her bedroom window for some fresh air—she is worried about both Dad and Noah and how poorly they seem to be doing in the wake of Mom’s... (full context)
Art, Self-Expression, and Communication Theme Icon
A week later, Benjamin is out of town and Noah’s party is raging. Jude wants to escape the chaos... (full context)
Chapter 5
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Fear Theme Icon
Weeks later, Noah is in his room when he hears his father answer the front door, and then senses a girl’s voice—he realizes it is Heather, whom... (full context)
Identity and Codependency  Theme Icon
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
...onto Jude’s carpet. When Noah enters his own bedroom, he is surprised to find his dad inside, sitting on the bed. Benjamin asks Noah if he wants to go to a... (full context)
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
...nice restaurant on the water and eat an extravagant meal. As they eat their steaks, Benjamin asks Noah a ton of questions about his art, and Noah is grateful to realize,... (full context)
Love, Sex, and Fear Theme Icon
...into the driveway back at the house, they see that Dianna’s car is not there. Benjamin tells Noah about a dream he had in which Dianna was walking through the house,... (full context)
Identity and Codependency  Theme Icon
...and the time on the clock on his desk. He realizes that today was his father’s birthday, and everyone forgot. Noah quickly draws a portrait of him and his father together... (full context)
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Fear Theme Icon
A week later, Dianna and Benjamin sit Noah and Jude down and explain that Benjamin is going to temporarily move into... (full context)
Identity and Codependency  Theme Icon
Art, Self-Expression, and Communication Theme Icon
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
...that evening, Jude and Noah stand at the window, shoulder to shoulder, and watch their father load a single suitcase into the car. The suitcase looks empty, but Jude tells Noah... (full context)
Identity and Codependency  Theme Icon
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
Magic and the Supernatural  Theme Icon
...walks in. She crawls into bed with Noah, and Noah confesses that he always wished Dad would leave. Jude admits that she once wished their mother would die. Noah urges her... (full context)
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Fear Theme Icon
Noah explodes in rage at Dianna, and tells her that it’s “all [her] fault” that Dad has left and that he and Jude are miserable. Dianna insists that she wants to... (full context)
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Fear Theme Icon
...wakes up early in a panic—he is afraid that Dianna is going to tell his dad about the incident with Brian and ruin the burgeoning closeness between him and Benjamin. Noah... (full context)
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Fear Theme Icon
Noah tells Dianna that he doesn’t want her to mention what she saw to Dad, and she promises she won’t. She urges Noah, though, to be more open with Benjamin... (full context)
Art, Self-Expression, and Communication Theme Icon
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Fear Theme Icon
...in her lap—he drew her and the sculptor kissing in the foreground, and drew himself, Benjamin, and Jude watching in the background. Dianna tearfully says that she wishes Noah hadn’t followed... (full context)
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Fear Theme Icon
...on marrying her new lover, and she doesn’t deny it. Dianna explains that she and Benjamin have been trying very hard to repair their marriage for a long time—but in the... (full context)
Chapter 6
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
Magic and the Supernatural  Theme Icon
...bottles and makeup jars are still lined up on the dresser, and a picture on Benjamin’s bedside table of him and Dianna portrays them when they were happy and youthful. (full context)
Identity and Codependency  Theme Icon
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Fear Theme Icon
...was off at the beach with Zephyr. When she did get home at last and Benjamin told her the news, her first reaction was to put her hands not over her... (full context)
Identity and Codependency  Theme Icon
Art, Self-Expression, and Communication Theme Icon
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
...her and Noah’s CSA applications were due—Jude hurriedly put together a work sample and then Dad drove both of them to the post office to mail off their applications. He and... (full context)
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
Magic and the Supernatural  Theme Icon
For weeks, Jude told herself that she would come clean to both Noah and her dad. But every time there was an opportunity to make things right, she lost her courage.... (full context)
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
...the first time in years. Though she knows she has some hard conversations with both Dad and Noah ahead of her, she feels like she is finally making peace with herself... (full context)
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Fear Theme Icon
...the window. Jude is confused and worried—she studies the photograph, in which her mother and father are smiling at each other “like they have the best secret.” (full context)
Chapter 7
Art, Self-Expression, and Communication Theme Icon
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
...if he’s reached the residence of Dianna Sweetwine, and if he can speak with Noah’s father. Noah explains that his father doesn’t live here. Noah asks who is speaking—but somehow already... (full context)
Art, Self-Expression, and Communication Theme Icon
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
...roof. He paces through the house until he hears a car in the driveway—it is Dad, who is being tailed by a police officer. Noah imagines another self-portrait: Boy Careens Off... (full context)
Chapter 8
Art, Self-Expression, and Communication Theme Icon
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Fear Theme Icon
Jude asks Noah to explain—Noah tearfully confesses that Dianna was on her way to ask Dad for a divorce when she died, and that Dianna was planning on marrying Guillermo. As... (full context)
Identity and Codependency  Theme Icon
Art, Self-Expression, and Communication Theme Icon
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
...of her and Noah, of Brian, of Mom and Guillermo at the Wooden Bird, of Dad, of Heather, and Guillermo’s stone giants. Noah has been remaking the world all along. Jude... (full context)
Art, Self-Expression, and Communication Theme Icon
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Fear Theme Icon
...able to find true happiness with Guillermo, but miserable and angry that her happiness was Dad’s unhappiness. At the same time, Jude wonders if that’s what love is: whether it “does... (full context)
Art, Self-Expression, and Communication Theme Icon
Magic and the Supernatural  Theme Icon
Later that evening, Noah and Dad make dinner. Noah and Jude have made an agreement—she is going to stop relying so... (full context)
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
Magic and the Supernatural  Theme Icon
Jude reveals that after Noah told Dad the truth, Dad received the news calmly. He seemed almost grateful for things to at... (full context)
Magic and the Supernatural  Theme Icon
...walked into the kitchen and spooked—and excited—Noah all those years ago. Jude introduces Oscar to Benjamin using his full name, Oscar Ralph, and then Oscar asks if he can talk to... (full context)
Identity and Codependency  Theme Icon
Grief and Guilt Theme Icon
Magic and the Supernatural  Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Fear Theme Icon
Two weeks later, Jude and Benjamin arrive back at the house after a swim in the ocean. As Jude looks across... (full context)