At the end of Chapter 6, Tom becomes the man of the family after his father dies, despite his young age. He must become responsible for the duties his father had previously performed for the family. Although he has physically matured to attain a manly stature, his emotional development lags behind. In fact, the entire novel addresses his struggle to define his manhood. Tom's father's early death places a burden upon him to care for his mother and himself with greater attentiveness.

In When the Legends Die, Borland's style consists of sparse language and short sentences, especially in the passages about Tom's family and the Ute traditions. This style reflects the simplicity of the wilderness in which Bessie, Tom, and George Black Bull lived.