The Light in the Forest | Study Guide

Conrad Richter

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The Light in the Forest | Chapter 5 | Summary



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

Once he passes the army camp at Fort Pitt, True Son knows he's in unfamiliar territory. Instead of being surrounded by the forest, he's surrounded by mountains, dry earth, weeds, and wooden barriers. He wonders why white people trap themselves in buildings away from nature.

Many white settlers arrive to greet the troops and the returned captives. True Son realizes that the white man who claims to be his father is probably there as well. The next day the soldiers herd the captives to the center of town. Each captive, still dressed in Indian clothing, is brought forward for family members to claim. While the white people in the crowd are emotional, the captives refuse to cry.

Just as True Son begins to hope no one will claim him, a white man arrives on a horse. Del introduces the man as True Son's father. Disgusted by the man's appearance and emotional behavior, True Son retorts that the man is not his father. He's even more disappointed when Del has to accompany him to the man's home. Del claims he's been ordered to translate True Son's language to his white family, but True Son knows Del is being sent to guard him.


Not only does True Son see white people as the enemy, he's living in the shadow of the French and Indian War, a conflict that ended a year before the narrative takes place. He notices the "turncoat Indians," or Indians who fought for the British side. He's disgusted by the white soldiers' show of power; Fort Pitt, a British military stronghold in Pennsylvania, frightens him.

As True Son enters white-controlled territory, he notices the changes to the landscape. Mountains become barriers, and trees disappear. Readers begins to see the broader effects of white colonialism—control and occupation of another country—in the American colonies. Colonialism was catastrophic for Native Americans. When white developers cleared the land, they destroyed the environment where wild game, or animals Indians hunted for food, could survive.

The houses appear false to True Son because they disguise the natural world. By painting the boards on their log houses, builders make the wood appear to be a human creation. True Son sees this detail as another example of white control and thinks that the whites have imprisoned themselves in these buildings.

He extends the idea of confinement and captivity when he calls his biological parents his "future masters," using language that evokes a master/slave relationship, not a family bond. Moreover, when he meets Mr. Butler he doesn't find him worthy of respect. In Lenni Lenape culture, paleness is the mark of an outsider and showing emotion is a sign of weakness.

Even through True Son's perspective, however, Richter allows readers to sympathize with the white characters. The biological families of the captives express multiple emotions: joy, fear, hesitation, and anxiety. Mr. Butler is glad to get his son back, but neither he nor True Son knows what to expect.

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