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The Light in the Forest

Conrad Richter

Chapters 5–6

Chapters 3–4

Chapters 7–8

Summary

Chapter 5

True Son thinks to himself that from now on he must make his own decisions as an Indian. He is suffocated by the miserable conditions of Fort Pitt, but nothing can prepare him for what lies beyond the mountains. When the troops reach the desolate part of the country where the forests have been cut down, True Son realizes that this is the white homeland. Horrified by the fences and stone houses, the boy cannot imagine why the whites imprison themselves in such restricted areas.

As they enter the village, crowds of people come to greet the soldiers and prisoners. Del tells True Son that his white father is coming for him in the morning, and True Son is shocked to think that his father may be among the people staring at them. The next morning, the white prisoners are herded onto stands in the town square where they are promptly examined by the crowds for certain birthmarks and features. Colonel Bouquet soon puts an end to the commotion, and the rest of the ceremony is conducted in an orderly fashion.

True Son pays very close attention to all that goes on. He watches as the unwilling captives are brought up one by one in front of the crowd, and he is proud to see that the only people not showing their emotions are the captives themselves. By the end of the ceremony, True Son and two other young girls are the only prisoners left unclaimed. For a moment True Son feels hopeful that his white father does not care about him, but shortly thereafter his father arrives on horseback and is led to his son.

A chill runs through True Son's body as he struggles to accept that the unimportant-looking person is his real father. The boy feels superior to the colorless man who is wearing a strange hat and clothing that resembles those of women. When Del orders True Son to shake hands with his father, the boy reluctantly gives his hand although he remains silent. True Son considers how much more noble and dignified his Indian father is compared to his white father. He cannot believe that the white man before him is openly showing emotion, an act his Indian father would never allow.

Del tells True Son to say that he is happy to see his father, but the boy harshly replies that the white man is not his father. The soldier makes a face at this comment but dutifully translates the message to the white man and Colonel Bouquet. Eventually it is decided by the Colonel that Del will travel along with True Son and his father. Although True Son is told that Del is coming along to translate Yengwe (English) for him and Delaware for his family, True Son knows that Del is really going to protect the white family from any violence. The boy is disappointed by this news because it means that he will have to wait longer to carry out his "plan."

Chapter 6

Del Hardy is overjoyed to see Fort Pitt after having lived in Indian country for weeks. The sight of English flags waving over solid stone houses makes him deeply emotional; he thinks of how these signs represent his countrymen. As the soldiers march closer to Pennsylvania, Del decides that setting foot on an open field or road must be one of the best feelings a white man can have after traveling through the thick woods of the Indians. He thinks about the trouble he has faced and is thankful that they are going to a place where nobody needs to be afraid. As they approach the white settlement, Del gazes happily at the fences, barns, and other symbols of industry.

A couple days later after they reach Carlisle, the white captives are returned to their families. Del remarks that True Son still does not appreciate his situation; he still thinks of himself as an Indian and speaks as if the Delaware language is more proper than English. As Del, True Son, and True Son's father reach the Susquehanna River, Del feels more at ease since he does not have to worry about the boy for a while. The sight of the river fills him with happiness. The boy, however, is unaffected by the river until his father points out that it is named Susquehanna. At this remark, True Son angrily states that the Susquehanna and the graves along it have been stolen from the Indians. His father, Mr. Butler, asks Del to tell True Son that they have nearly reached their home, Paxton Township. True Son seems to understand what the words mean before they are translated; with a look of fear he asks in broken English whether this is the home of the "Peshtank" men. When his father replies that it is indeed the place of the Peshtank or Paxton boys and that some of these men are relatives of True Son, True Son races off through the shallow water and into the woods. Del soon finds the boy and carries him back.

When they finally approach the Butlers' house, Del notices how nervous Mr. Butler seems. True Son refuses to come inside and his father coaxes him by saying that his brother, young Gordie, is here to meet him. True Son has never met Gordie since he was born after True Son was kidnapped, yet Gordie is the only one who looks at True Son as if there is nothing wrong with him.

Before long, a woman's voice calls for Harry, True Son's father, to bring the boy upstairs. At first, True Son refuses to go up the foreign-looking stairs; it is not until Gordie climbs up the stairs easily that True Son slowly goes up himself. Once he has reached the top, True Son is led to a large room in which a woman with black hair and black eyes is half-lying on a couch. Del can tell from the way she looks at True Son that this is his white mother.

True Son's mother learns that he only knows a little English, but she refuses to believe that he cannot understand her. The woman explains to her son that she is his mother, Myra Butler, that his father is Harry Butler, his brother Gordon Butler, and his own name is John Cameron Butler. When True Son refuses to say his name, his mother comments that he is stubborn like his Uncle Wilse. She tells him that their relatives are coming the next day and that he must not act so rudely. True Son finally speaks angrily in broken English, announcing that his real name is True Son and that this is the name his mother and father gave him. Although Mrs. Butler seems slightly upset at this, she simply hands True Son fresh clothes to wear.

The thought of wearing the white clothes suffocates True Son. To him they represent the evil and deceptive ways of the white man. As he and his brother Gordie walk to their room, Gordie asks True Son if he can have his Indian clothes so that he can be an Indian. True Son remains silent and does not take off his clothes, but for a second the boys seem to look at each other with understanding.

Analysis

Again, Richter uses the contrasting viewpoints of Del and True Son to capture the range of emotions inspired by the sight of white settlement. True Son reacts with horror at the stone houses and the clearing of the forest because he is accustomed to roaming the land and living as one with nature. We can imagine how these strange signs of permanence seem artificial and claustrophobic to someone who has lived most of his life outdoors. The language Richter uses to describe the scene through True Son's eyes is also very indicative of the way True Son feels psychologically. The boy sees the crowds of people as the "future masters" of the white prisoners and among them there is one who "pretends" to be his father. The ceremony in which the captives are returned to their families is described as almost violent, with the white people poking and pulling at the prisoners. He refuses to see the whites as family or kinsmen but rather as foreigners who have aggressively stolen the captives as if they were slaves. His perspective is especially intriguing since he portrays the whites' actions as uncivilized; throughout the novel, the white characters lead us to believe that they are saving True Son from the barbaric Indian way of life.

Conversely, Del's joy at seeing Fort Pitt and Carlisle expresses the viewpoint of the white settler. To him, the structures of industry and stability are superior aspects of his white culture. Whereas True Son feels comfortable living in the woods, Del only feels safe and at home when he sees signs of the familiar white "civilization" in which he has grown up. Del's spirit represents that of the adventurous, patriotic, and determined frontiersman who truly believes in his people's cause. The language Richter uses to express Del's perspective changes to better reflect his feelings and character. As in Chapter 2, Del speaks with slightly uneducated words ("you'd reckon"), but he is still able to express the beauty of the Susquehanna River as he sees it for the first time in weeks.

When True Son meets his white family for the first time in years, we begin to understand the difficult transition that lies ahead for True Son. Up until this point, True Son has been able to deny the existence of his white family; they have been out of sight and out of mind. Once he sees his white father, however, he is harshly presented with the reality of his life. Although True Son keeps up his stubborn guise, refusing to accept that he has anything to do with the whites, he is faced with aspects of his existence that will eventually become impossible to ignore. The struggle to maintain his Indian identity becomes subtly complicated as he learns his real white name and finds out that he is related to the dreaded Paxton boys. Inside True Son still feels like an Indian, but he is unable to convince his white family of this identity. As they present him with new clothes that he will soon be forced to wear, True Son feels as though his freedom and old way of life are being stripped from him.

Through the eyes of Del, however, we also see how difficult the homecoming must be for True Son's white family. Despite the fact that they are unable to understand True Son, True Son's mother and father deeply love him. They too are in denial because they still view True Son as the little boy who was taken from them. True Son's mother, in particular, refuses to believe that the boy she loves so dearly has completely disowned his white family in favor of his kidnappers. It is heartbreaking to think that her own son cannot recognize her or even understand her words.

The one hopeful sign of the reunion is the burgeoning relationship between Gordie and True Son. As an innocent child, Gordie is able to accept his brother for what he is and remain unaffected by his unusual mannerisms. As we have seen before in the relationship between Half Arrow and True Son, the bonds between children are the strongest and promising examples of brotherhood.

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