Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text's major themes


Richter suggests his bias toward the Indian way of life by including many breathtaking descriptions of the beautiful, untouched environments of Indian country. Nature is always linked to the world of the Indians and in particular to their definition of freedom, and—through the eyes of True Son—parts of nature are even described as family members. Richter writes particularly long and inviting passages about Indian country in Chapters 12 and 13, during True Son and Half Arrow's adventure home. The time the cousins spend together in the wilderness marks their last adventure as children who are still free from the war between whites and Indians. When they are together as brothers enjoying a simple existence in nature, they do not have to think about the past, and they finally have control over their lives. Richter seems to imply that this is the way we are meant to live: free and at peace with our friends and nature.

Point of View and Language

Although the point-of-view of The Light in the Forest always remains in third person omniscient, Richter often portrays the story's events through the eyes of several characters. In order to create this effect, the author concentrates on different characters' personal feelings in separate chapters, in addition to adopting the tone and speech used by these characters. For example, in the fifth and sixth chapters of the novel we are introduced to Fort Pitt and Carlisle from True Son and Del Hardy's viewpoints, respectively. The words used to describe the settlements in Chapter 5 are indicative of True Son's negative attitude toward white civilization—the houses are referred to as prisons and the settlements themselves are called gloomy and ugly. Conversely, the language of Chapter 6 reveals the thoughts of Del Hardy—houses are referred to as welcoming signs of superiority and phrases such as "you'd reckon" are included to get the sense of Del's uneducated speech. This technique is effective in giving us a multi-dimensional perspective on True Son's story and the life of the frontier. Furthermore, in learning the personal feelings of True Son's white parents, as we do in Chapters 9 and 10, we become much more sympathetic to their situation. Richter shows that there is not one correct viewpoint on the war between whites and Indians; many of the characters have complicated but equally understandable perspectives.