The cowboy Sunny Sundown is a character invented by Swede, and the hero of her epic poem. Over the course of his journey, Sunny Sundown transitions from staunch lawman to misunderstood outlaw. He acts as a symbol for Davy and, specifically, how Swede and Reuben view Davy. Until Reuben begins to question the righteousness of Davy's crime, Davy is truly a man of the law in the eyes of his siblings. He honorably shot Tommy and Israel to protect his family, and early excerpts from Swede's poem draw a number of parallels between Sundown and Davy in this regard. When the court doesn't agree that Davy is an honorable man, Davy is pushed to run away and become an outlaw, and Sundown's plot follows a similar path. The end of Sundown's story is particularly illustrative of Swede's unwillingness to accept the reality of Davy's situation. Sundown's story ends with him safely enclosed in a beautiful and impenetrable valley with his lovely and faithful wife. This is far from what Davy's life on the run is actually like, and therefore represents a wishful imagining of what could have been, and, in Swede's mind, what should have been.
The Peace Like a River quotes below all refer to the symbol of Sunny Sundown. 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: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Grove Atlantic edition of Peace Like a River published in 2002.).
Peeking at Eternity Quotes
A Boy on a Horse Quotes
The timeline below shows where the symbol Sunny Sundown appears in Peace Like a River. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Beauteous Are My Cakes Indeed
...schoolwork while Swede tries to sidestep long division by composing epic poems about the cowboy Sunny Sundown for her teacher. On Wednesday, Reuben is especially excited to attend church, as the... (full context)
Your Toughened Heart
Peeking at Eternity
...Reuben that she's been in her room because she can't figure out how to make Sunny Sundown kill Valdez. Reuben explains to the reader that after Swede's abduction, Valdez had transformed... (full context)
A Boy on a Horse
Reuben keeps reading new installments of Swede's epic poem. A woman who isn't Sunny's wife rescues him from his unjust execution, which Reuben finds very problematic. When Sunny kisses... (full context)
At War with This Whole World
...into her saddle. She quickly types up several verses about a posse's ill-fated search for Sunny Sundown. She wakes before Dad the next morning and when Dad suggests they have pancakes,... (full context)
Winning Her Hand
...one point he wakes to see Swede sitting next to him rifling through a new Sunny Sundown poem. Reuben reminds the reader of Sunny's arc from lawman to "misunderstood outlaw." Sunny... (full context)
...go upstairs and not help with dishes. Reuben tries to distract Swede by asking about Sunny Sundown, but she sends him upstairs anyway. Reuben struggles to climb the stairs and sits... (full context)
The Red Farm