The Day the Sun Came Out by Dorothy M. Johnson: Summary and Analysis

Find below our complete notes on the short story “The Day the Sun Came Out” by Dorothy M. Johnson. Our notes cover the background, summary, characters, themes, and analysis of this story.

The Day the Sun Came Out Introduction:

The story “The Day the Sun came out” is written by Dorothy Johnson. This story is narrated by a young boy of eleven. The story has four parts. It is about an American family that travelled to west to get a better life and all the difficulties they face while travelling.

Although, they face many hardships, all the characters help each other in every possible way. The narrator acts as a big boy at the age of just eleven. Mary, who is not a family member when she starts the journey with them, takes care of the three kids whole heartedly. Father of the boy tries his best to find out provisions for his family throughout the story.

The story sets in the time when they start travelling towards mountains from a big grassy area where wind is blowing. On their way, they get to meet Mary who later helps them out in finding food when they starve. At the end of the story we come to know that Mary gets married to Pa.

The Day the Sun Came Out Summary:

The story begins with a journey of a family towards west in order to have a more prosperous life. This family includes a young boy of eleven years (narrator), his Pa and two younger sisters. On their way to the mountains, they almost run out of food.

Along the way they meet a young girl of eighteen who stands against Pa and wants to travel with the family. As they are almost out of food, Pa cannot afford another mouth to feed but the girl stands against him and promises to take care of two little girls so Pa allows her to go with them.

The weather in the mountains is very, very rainy. They stay in a cabin located in the middle of the woods. Pa tries to find out some food for the family but fails. So he decides to travel alone to seek provisions. Marry, the boy, and his sisters wait for his return for many days.

As they are left with no food and their last option, the horse, has run away, Mary finds a large mushroom, cooks it but does not share it with the kids. On asking, the boy comes to know that Marry is waiting to see if it is poisonous or not, risking her life for them. The next morning Mary is fine and all of them eat happily.

After that, Pa comes back the next day with a pack of food. The last line of the story indicates that later on Pa marries that young girl, Mary and she becomes the step-mother of the boy and two little girls.

The Day the Sun Came Out Themes:

Appearance vs reality:

It is one of the major themes of this story. Sometimes things do not appear as they really are. At first Pa reluctantly allows Mary to travel with them and does not talk to her throughout the journey. He seems to be a rude and selfish person at first but later on he marries her which shows his kindness.

Similarly, Mary appears as selfish person when she cooks the mushroom and eats it without sharing with anyone. The boy hates her for this action and the little girls get scared of her but later on they find out that she sacrificed her life to save theirs.


The character of the boy, Pa and Mary shows sacrificial role in this story.

The young boy of eleven acts as a big boy and protector of his younger sisters. He sacrifices his childhood for the protection of his sisters and sense of responsibility as an elder brother and the only son of his father.

Similarly, Pa starts a journey towards west in order to give a better and happy life to his children. When the food was about to finish, Pa heads towards town alone.  He does not think about his own safety, leaving his children and Mary at a safe place which shows his sacrifice for his family.

Moreover, Mary also shows sacrificial role in this story. Although Mary is not a member of this family, she is a kind-hearted person which compels her to put her own life in danger to save the lives of children. She eats a slice of mushroom to experiment if it is poisonous or not.

Unpredictability of life:

This is another major theme of this story which shows that life is unpredictable. At first Pa does not like Mary much but later on at the end of the story we come to know that Pa marries her which shows how unpredictable life is. When Pa sees her kindness and how she took care of his children He marries her and she becomes step-mother of the three children.

Self-centeredness Of society:

In the story we can see the self-centeredness of people of the society. The family is suffering and is running out of food but no one is there to help them. Nobody even knows that the family is facing a hard time.

When Pa decides to go to the town alone to bring food for the family he bursts out with bitterness and says that there is no goodness left in this world, people do not care if you live or die. It shows the self-centeredness and meanness of the society.

The Day the Sun Came Out Characters:

Eleven years old boy:

The narrator of the story is a brother of two sisters and a brave son of a hardworking father. When the story begins the boy along with his father walks towards mountains while her two little sisters were resting on wagon. When the father decides to go to the west alone to seek provisions, he gives him responsibility to handle everything under Mary’s supervision.

Throughout the story we can see how the boy faces all the hardships bravely and takes care of his two sisters. He also goes out alone in search of the missing horse.

All these elements show him as a brave, responsible and devoted person.


The protagonist of the story and a father of three children who starts heading towards west in order to find a better way of earning to give a more prosperous life to his family. He takes care of his children and When they are about to run out of food on their way, he goes alone leaving his family and Marry at a safe place to seek help from the town and returns after many days with a pack of food.

After examining his character we come to know that he is a person of good heart who works hard and takes the risk of going to west alone for his children.


Mary is a young, beautiful girl of eighteen runs away from her home because of the violence of her family. She gets to meet this family when they were on the way towards west, convinces Pa to let her travel with them and promises to take care of two little girls. She fulfills her promise and does her job efficiently.

Furthermore, she experiments on herself to save the kids from eating poisonous mushroom which shows her kind heartedness and selflessness. She is a strong and courageous lady who handles the tough situation wisely and stays true to her words.

Sarah and Elizabeth:

Sarah and Elizabeth are younger sisters of the boy and daughters of Pa. They enjoy their journey playing and walking at first but when they get tired, they take rest in the wagon. Mary takes responsibility to take care of them and performs it efficiently.

When Mary refuses to give them mushroom, they get scared and find her cruel but the next morning when they eat the food they become happy and forget about Mary’s rude behavior which shows their innocence.


The family owns a one-horse wagon. The horse is so old and tired that it cannot carry much weight. When the family stays in a cabin in middle of the woods, the horse gets scared from a bear and runs away. They boy tries to search but fails to find it.

The Day the Sun Came Out Analysis:

In the first part of the story the family is heading towards west to find work. The family includes eleven years old boy, his Pa and his two younger sisters. After traveling for two weeks they meet a girl named Mary who has run away from somewhere she does not tell. She joins them, when they reach mountains, it’s raining there heavily and the environment is very gloomy and stressful. The rainy weather shows their gloomy lives. It also shows that the family is suffering from many difficulties and is in search of peace and better life.

In the second part of the story “The Old Cabin”, the family stops and stays in an old cabin for some days because the horse is tired and cannot travel more. Pa tires to find food but fails every time so he decides to go to the town to bring food.

He gives responsibility of children to Mary and heads out to the town. They wait for his return and run out of food. Mary goes out in the woods in search of food.

In the third part “Mary’s Surprise”, Marry finds a big white mushroom. It was a surprise for the boy and little girls but Mary eats a slice alone and behaves rudely with them. But little do they know why she does that. Later on the boy comes to know about her sacrifice and how she risked her own life to save theirs.

In the last part of the story “Comes the Morning”, Mary lets the children eat the mushroom the next morning when she wakes up alive and they all become happy. In the afternoon the rain has stopped which shows that the gloomy weather of life is about to end, the closed doors of a happy life are about to open and good days are coming. After that the father returns with a pack of food. The very last line of the story suggests that later on Pa marries the young girl, Mary and they lived a happy life.