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The Light in the Forest | Study Guide

Conrad Richter

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The Light in the Forest | Character Analysis


True Son

True Son is intelligent, loyal, and proud of his Indian identity. He resists adopting the practices of his white relatives, and he never considers them his true family. Instead, he wants to show the courage and restraint he associates with being Indian. However, he soon grows confused about his identity and his place in the world. He also develops sympathy for Gordie, his young white biological brother.


Cuyloga is one of the most respected and feared members of the tribe. He's stoic and courageous—just as True Son wants to be. Though he loves True Son, he is also committed to being a responsible Lenni Lenape leader. Once he sees True Son can't be wholly loyal to the tribe, he's forced to send his son back to the white township. However, he does act to save True Son from execution by the rest of the tribal warriors.

Half Arrow

Half Arrow is impulsive and confident. He frequently jokes and laughs with his friends. His upbeat spirit encourages True Son. But Half Arrow's rage and contempt for white people sometimes threaten to get the friends in trouble.


Del is eager to prove himself as a soldier. He's enthusiastic about white industrial development in the American colonies. He has a unique perspective in the army because he's spent time living with the Delaware Indians. Because of his language skills, he serves as an interpreter between True Son and his biological family.


Gordie is curious and excited about True Son's return to the Butler household. He accepts and admires his older brother's Indian identity. He also helps True Son adjust to new habits of living in a white household. Gordie is the only family member True Son feels affection for.

Mr. Butler

Mr. Butler is optimistic about True Son's return. He calls True Son "Johnny" and hopes they will share a father/son bond. But he becomes discouraged when True Son refuses to open up to him. Mr. Butler values hard work, thrift, and property accumulation. He hopes to pass these values down to his children.

Mrs. Butler

Mrs. Butler is delicate but authoritative. She makes most of the decisions for the household. After years of despair over her kidnapped child, she hopes True Son will adopt his original name and accept the family lifestyle. Though she's discouraged over her inability to bond with him, she doesn't give up.

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