The Light in the Forest

by: Conrad Richter

Uncle Wilse

A radical white supremacist and leader of the infamous Paxton Boys, True Son's large-set and powerful Uncle Wilse believes strongly in the extermination of the Indian race. His aggressive intolerance represents the racist attitudes of many white settlers of the eighteenth century. Like his nephew True Son, Wilse is stubborn, passionate about his feelings, and willing to use violence against those he perceives as enemies. For example, in a heated conversation with True Son, Wilse strikes his nephew for making an offensive comment. Although he claims to be a good Christian, Wilse feels completely justified in killing the Conestoga Indian women and children in order to prevent them from breeding more "murderers." Wilse and his brother also express resentment at what they perceive to be preferential treatment for Indians. They feel that they must take the law into their own hands because the courts in Eastern Pennsylvania sympathize with Indians and do not punish them for the violence they commit against whites. Toward the end of the novel, Wilse and his cronies shoot and scalp True Son's friend Little Crane because Little Crane and Half Arrow tell stories that Wilse deems offensive. True Son and Half Arrow later punish Wilse for this by tomahawking and partially scalping Wilse as he lies groaning on the floor. We do not know if Uncle Wilse survives this attack, but we learn that even if he does survive he will have life-long scars.