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The Light in the Forest

Conrad Richter

Chapters 11–12

Chapters 9–10

Chapters 13–14

Summary

Chapter 11

True Son feels his sickness growing worse steadily throughout the winter. At first he thought it was from straining his eyes to see a sign from his Indian people; all winter he waited for a message from them, but nothing came. True Son becomes more and more homesick as spring draws near and reminds him of the good times he and Half Arrow shared together. He begins to feel that his Indian people have forgotten about him since he has not heard from them in so long. What he despairs of especially, however, is the fact that his Indian soul is becoming steadily weaker. At first he resisted stubbornly to any aspects of white culture, but now he is growing accustomed to white ways. He works in the fields like a woman and, as Bejance remarks, he is getting more and more restricted. True Son still has little respect for his white father, whom he sees as too weak to control his pathetically frail wife, but True Son still follows his orders nonetheless.

This evening, however, True Son feels that something strange is in the air. Gordie tells him that Aunt Kate has seen an Indian outside, and True Son becomes very excited. He feels invigorated by the news and believes that the Great Spirit has not forgotten about him, after all. True Son slips into his Indian clothes and climbs out of his window into the night. Once outside, he shouts a secret Indian call that sounds like the hoot of an owl. The boy receives an answer from an Indian who asks him who he is and which tribe he is from. When finally True Son realizes that this Indian is Half Arrow, he is overjoyed. Half Arrow is also happy to see his cousin but says that he did not recognize True Son's voice because he sounded like a white trying to speak Lenni Lenape.

Half Arrow agrees to take True Son to see Little Crane, but his voice sounds strange. As Half Arrow leads True Son through the darkness, he seems to drag his feet, and True Son cannot understand what is wrong. The boys soon come to Little Crane's body lying near a tree, and True Son finally realizes that his friend has been scalped and killed by the whites. Half Arrow explains that the two had gone to the house of True Son's white uncle where they had told funny stories about silly things white people had done. Half Arrow cannot understand why the whites did not laugh at the jokes, but True Son becomes uneasy as the stories are described to him; he sees that his uncle was offended.

The boys decide to visit Uncle Wilse's cooper store to ask who killed Little Crane. True Son questions his uncle as to where Little Crane is, but the arrogant man simply says that the Indian is in a place where he will do no more harm. Uncle Wilse then grabs True Son, asking whether his father knows where he is. Half Arrow comes out of the darkness and strikes Uncle Wilse twice on the head with a tomahawk before the man loosens his grip and falls to the ground. Half Arrow wants to cut Uncle Wilse's heart out, but True Son dies not let him. The boys set to work scalping True Son's uncle as he grunts in pain until they see that one of Uncle Wilse's helpers has seen them and has gone to get a gun. True Son convinces Half Arrow to leave the scalp and in a hurry they run to the barn where True Son produces food, a rifle, powder, and several other items from beneath some hay. The boys scamper off together into the night as the sound of hooves awakens Paxton Township.

Chapter 12

When True Son awakes the next morning, he cannot remember what has happened the day before. All he can recall is lying near death in his white father's house, and he thinks for a moment that he is dead. Now he feels strong, however, and he is surrounded by nature atop the Kittaniny Mountain. He knows for certain that he is not dead when he sees Half Arrow lying asleep next to him, and all at once he remembers what they had been through together the previous day. He thinks happily that he can never go back to Paxton township because they will put him in prison or hang him if Uncle Wilse dies.

True Son wakes Half Arrow, and the boys start their long journey back to Tuscarawas. They pass by Corn Blade's mountain, and they cut through streams and rivers on the first day, hiding at times when they hear white men crossing in the woods. True Son becomes more and more happy as they travel deeper into the Indian forest. His only regret is that he has left Gordie behind, and he imagines his poor brother lying alone waiting for him to come back. Half Arrow notices True Son staring toward his white father's village, and he asks True Son whether he wants to go back to Paxton township. True Son says that he does not but that he has left his brother; he tells Half Arrow that they must be brothers now.

As the boys walk through the forest, True Son thinks of how he will never forget this glorious path forever westward into Indian territory. He and Half Arrow keep each other company by pointing out signs in the forest and making fun of the whites. They become uneasy when their path becomes a wide, open road since they will be more vulnerable, but luckily they do not come across any whites or Indians. For days they travel until they reach a trading post on the Ohio river. Half Arrow proposes that they steal the trader's boats in order to make the rest of their trip to Tuscarawas easier. True Son is reluctant to do so, but Half Arrow explains that they are simply taking back from the trader what the whites have stolen from the Indians. They decide that since the trader is half-Indian, half-white, they will only take one of his boats.

That night the boys take the smaller of the trader's boats since the larger one is tied up with an iron chain. At daylight they see the outlines of a white settlement in the distance, and as they come closer they realize that this is Fort Pitt. Although it is risky for them to pass by in the boat, it is even more dangerous for them to camp. The boys lay low in their boat as they pass through into Indian country. True Son tells Half Arrow that he will never forget the sight of Fort Pitt this morning. The last time he had seen it he was a prisoner, but now he is free again.

Analysis

In Chapter 11, we get the first signs that True Son has changed from the vehemently rebellious teenager he was when he first arrived at Paxton township. As Bejance predicted, the bonds of white culture are gradually closing in on True Son; he has given up his protests and has given in to working the fields as a woman does and allowing his white family to do with him what they will.

When Half Arrow returns, we see True Son's old, fiery spirit ignite once more; he feels liberated and reinvigorated by his cousin's presence. Yet there is still some indication that he has been affected by his stay with the whites. Whereas earlier in the novel True Son would have gladly ripped out the heart of his vile Uncle Wilse, we now see him reluctant to do so. Although this reasoning is never entirely clarified, we may assume that True Son does not want to commit such an extreme act because he feels some sort of strange loyalty to his white family and that he knows it would devastate them. True Son is also regretful about leaving Gordie, and later in Chapter 13 he is hesitant about stealing the boat from the trader. The boy must be reminded by Half Arrow that they are only settling the score with the white man. These cases are small but significant suggestions that True Son may feel at least some compassion for the whites.

When Half Arrow describes to True Son the jokes he and Little Crane told to Uncle Wilse, we are reminded of the conversation Half Arrow, True Son, and Little Crane had in the beginning of the novel as they marched to Fort Pitt. Although the boys think that they are just explaining the funny reality of white nature, they fail to realize that their words are offensive to white people. Like the whites who criticize the Indians as savages and heathens, Half Arrow and Little Crane display superior attitudes regarding the Indian race. Although they cause no physical harm to Uncle Wilse, their ignorance and insensitivity perpetuates the white's violence and leads to their own destruction

The scalping that Half Arrow and True Son commit is a very serious offense, and it is important to realize, as True Son does happily, that they can never go back to Paxton Township, especially if Uncle Wilse dies. True Son's actions have sealed his fate as an adult; no longer will he be treated like an innocent child. Yet the grave nature of this fact seems to escape the boys as they travel home. True Son can only see the hope in his situation and the fact that he is finally going back to Tuscarawas. Whereas before Fort Pitt—the farthest west outpost of the white soldiers—represented to True Son the suffocating and gloomy nature of white civilization, now, as the boys pass by, it symbolizes to True Son his triumph over the whites.

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