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The Light in the Forest | Study Guide

Conrad Richter

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The Light in the Forest | Chapter 3 | Summary



This chapter is told from True Son's point of view.

After three days, the army camp prepares to leave for Pennsylvania. True Son can't imagine leaving home to live with the strange, undignified white men. He recalls how his father's friend Make Daylight killed himself to avoid shame after his wife abandoned him. Make Daylight ate the root of the mayapple, a poisonous plant. Hoping to die a courageous death at home, True Son plans to find the mayapple root himself.

The journey to Pennsylvania begins. True Son's spirits are lifted when his friend Half Arrow finds him and walks alongside him. Their friend Little Crane is also on the journey, marching ahead with his white wife. Surprised to see True Son taken captive, Half Arrow jokes that they will scalp the white troops. Though True Son knows his friend is joking, he still warns him that many white soldiers can understand their language. Half Arrow's company makes the walk pleasant. True Son soon forgets his mission to find the mayapple.

At night Del refuses to let Half Arrow and True Son sleep together, claiming he can't trust Indians. Half Arrow gives True Son gifts from the tribe—corn, moccasins, and the bearskin covering True Son used for his bed. Then Half Arrow retreats to sleep in the woods.


Richter writes from the third-person omniscient point of view to observe how different characters experience the same situations. The differences often emerge in word choice. True Son, for instance, calls white people "Yengwes"—a term for "English"—and views them as "a race of aliens." The word alien implies something or someone foreign, different, and threatening.

This chapter works in tandem with Chapter 4 to show readers how True Son and other Indians critique white European culture. Anticipating that readers will identify more with the white settlers, Richter wants them to see themselves from the perspective of a stranger.

He also introduces readers to the values of Lenni Lenape culture. True Son has been raised to show dignity and courage during hard times. To him this means choosing death over a life with white people. He aspires to an idea of noble self-sacrifice that he associates with a uniquely Indian identity. When Half Arrow proudly says he plans to sleep in the woods, he indicates that the culture values self-reliance and ingenuity in nature.

Another important value of True Son's Indian culture is humor. His jokes with Half Arrow demonstrate easy familiarity and friendship. But many of Half Arrow's jokes have an earnest rage behind them. He assumes that the white armies will scalp him at the earliest opportunity, and he and Del don't trust each other.

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