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The novel's protagonist. True Son is a fifteen-year-old boy who, after being raised by Lenni Lenape (Delaware) Indians for eleven years, is forced to return to his white family in Pennsylvania. Strong-willed, rebellious, and passionate, True Son longs to be a noble Indian warrior like his adoptive father, Cuyloga. His stubborn teenage nature prevents him from adapting easily to white culture, yet he eventually forges a strong relationship with his younger brother, Gordie.
Read an in-depth analysis of True Son
As a brave, fair, and stoic warrior, Cuyloga represents the ideal image of the noble Indian. Although he is a strict leader who rarely shows emotion, Cuyloga deeply loves his white son and tries to guide him whenever possible. He is True Son's hero.
Read an in-depth analysis of Cuyloga
The twenty-year-old soldier Del provides a contrasting viewpoint to True Son's perspective on frontier life. Del was raised near Indians and knows their customs and language. His background causes him to be more sympathetic toward True Son than some of the other white characters, but he is still a strong white soldier who adamantly believes in the superiority of whites. He does not understand why True Son cannot appreciate the white way of life.
Read an in-depth analysis of Del Hardy
A radical white supremacist and leader of the infamous Paxton boys. Wilse is True Son's large-set and powerful uncle, who 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.
Read an in-depth analysis of Uncle Wilse
True Son's white father is viewed by True Son as the exact opposite of Cuyloga: weak, pale, and insignificant. In actuality, however, Harry Butler has been strong enough to endure the extraordinary guilt and sorrow he has felt ever since True Son was kidnapped. He cares deeply for his son and never loses hope that True Son will come around in the end.
True Son's light-hearted Indian cousin, Half Arrow, is his most devoted and loving friend. A young boy who loves to laugh, Half Arrow is at times overconfident or naïve about his abilities to outmaneuver the enemy whites.
Colonel Bouquet is the military leader who forces the return of the Indians' white prisoners. He is portrayed by Del as a fair and peaceful man who acts as a father to his soldiers. However, he is also a confident, determined frontiersman who is willing to take risks.
True Son's white mother. Myra Butler has been an invalid ever since he was stolen from their family. Like Harry Butler, Myra loves True Son very much and has experienced guilt since his disappearance. She wants desperately to believe that True Son will one day give up his Indian ways and refuses to listen to the pessimistic Aunt Kate. However, True Son views his white mother as disgraceful, since she does not work, as he believes women should.
True Son and Half Arrow's friend. Little Crane, is deeply in love with his white wife, who is being returned to Paxton Township as True Son is. Little Crane is very critical of white behavior, but his lack of discretion in voicing his opinions proves fatal.
True Son's naïve younger brother. Gordie seems unaware that True Son's actions or behavior is different from whites'. On the contrary, Gordie looks up to his older brother and tries to defend him against their less tolerant relatives. A truly loving and understanding character, Gordie symbolizes hope for the whites, and he represents the innocent children who are destroyed by the ongoing racial war. His relationship with True Son is the most powerful bond True Son establishes with another white.
True Son's strong-willed and opinionated white aunt very much disapproves of his Indian behavior. She is very outspoken about her feelings of mistrust and anger for the boy, and she worries that his actions are causing the further deterioration of his mother, Myra Butler.
A thin, wise, and elderly man, Parson Elder is one of the most respected and accomplished citizens of Paxton Township. He has worked as a colonel and farmer, in addition to being the village pastor. Although he firmly believes in Christian superiority, Pastor Elder understands the complex situation that exists between whites and Indians. He is able to see True Son's perspective on the violent nature of whites, and he is honest about the mistakes he has committed as a military leader.
Bejance is an old black slave who works as a basket maker. Like True Son, he grew up with an Indian tribe, the Wyandottes of Virginia, and misses the freedom of his youth very much. The experiences he has endured in both the Indian and white worlds have given the slave a wise perspective on life, which he is able to share with True Son and Gordie.
Thitpan, whose appropriate name means "Bitter," is Little Crane's brother. A bloodthirsty and ruthless man, Thitpan's character strongly parallels that of Uncle Wilse. Just as Uncle Wilse has no mercy for Indians, Thitpan has no compassion for whites and feels justified in killing even white children.
Bejance tells True Son that Corn Blade is the only person living near Paxton Township who can speak Lenni Lenape, and Bejance estimates that Corn Blade must be one hundred years old. Until Harry Butler tells True Son that Corn Blade is dead, Corn Blade represents hope for True Son during his first winter in Paxton Township.
As True Son's Indian mother, Quaquenga is favored over Myra Butler by her son. She is described as loving and protective of her son.
True Son's pudgy, white cousin. Alec takes after his boorish father, Uncle Wilse, in his treatment of True Son.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Light in the Forest!