Every Sunday, Denver and his family ride a wagon to church—which also functions as a social center—to hear the black preacher, who teaches the same sermon for months at a time before moving onto the next. Though he can’t read, Denver learns the Bible from listening to the preacher repeat his sermons over and over again. When Denver is twelve years old, Aunt Etha dresses him in all white and takes him to the river to be baptized by the preacher, with a picnic to follow. When the preacher dunks him underwater, his grip slips, and Denver sinks straight to the bottom, lying flat on his back. Not knowing that he is supposed to come back up right away, Denver floats down the river for a while until he pops up for air, “a few shades paler and fulla the Holy Ghost!” The congregation is so relieved to see him alive that he gets two pieces of pie during the picnic.
Denver’s learning of the Bible through listening to the preacher demonstrates that, though he is uneducated and never learns to read, Denver certainly isn’t unintelligent. Rather, disadvantaged as he is by his illiteracy, he learns through different methods. This furthers the argument that poor people or homeless people like Denver are as intelligent and capable of learning as anyone, but they have been faced with far more obstacles and disadvantages.Importantly, Denver interjects innocence, naivety, and humor into his description of a childhood filled with tragedy and hardship. This helps the reader to remember that though he is effectively a slave, Denver is also still just a kid.