The Light in the Forest By Conrad Richter Summary and Analysis Chapter 2

Summary

To Del, one of the white guards watching over True Son and the other captives, True Son is the "wildest and most rebellious" of the captives being returned to their white relatives. True Son demonstrates that he has reached a stubborn age, having to be tied with buffalo thongs, which he tries to loosen with his teeth. He rejects food and refuses to be assimilated back into white society in Pennsylvania. Del, who himself had lived with the Delawares as a child, suggests that True Son has no choice but to accept his white heritage.

Analysis

Del Hardy, who also lived with Indians in boyhood, is a character completely opposite of True Son in terms of his outlook on life. He looks forward to a career of military service and has accepted the whites' need to retrieve their former community members now held captive or else retaliate against the Indians who "scalped plenty of our people in their time." Del is beginning his career as guide and bilingual translator for Colonel Bouquet and will eventually serve under three generals. His current mission, traveling over a hundred miles into hostile Indian territory, brings out Bouquet's devil-may-care attitude and his protectiveness toward the half-volunteer, half-professional columns that thread their way to the Muskingum River in eastern Ohio, a site made holy to the Indians by the juncture of the Tuscarawas and Waldoning Rivers. Del also serves as an Indian expert who understands that Cuyloga's people genuinely care for their adopted sons and daughters and must make the difficult decision between giving up their adoptees or seeing "a white man's town a settin' there on the banks of their own river."

Del is the first character to sympathize with True Son. When he reminds True Son that the boy is white, True Son replies, "Nobody can help how he is born." Here, True Son's statement emphasizes a major theme in the book. True Son had no say in his upbringing — both white and Indian. He was taught by Cuyloga to be who and what he is, and he knows no other way of living. However, the white society that Del represents does not accept that True Son, who we later learn was named Johnny by his white parents, can be anything but white. Del, having lived with the Delaware, understands some of what True Son is experiencing. When True Son says, "I'm Indian!" and looks Del straight in the eye, Del doesn't laugh. In some ways, Del is a prototype of what True Son may become if he is able to resolve the conflict between his Indian upbringing and his white birthright.

Another theme in the novel derives from the final lines in Chapter 2. To Del's question about where True Son can escape to, the boy replies, "A place where you can't tramp me with your big foot." The sentence captures the struggle between Indian and white, a lengthy tug-of-war over Indian lands that whites occupy and Indian beliefs about communal ownership of land that contradict whites' claims to individual ownership of property. Note that Del has no idea what True Son means by his statement: Richter suggests that whites cannot understand how their fight for land affects Indians, who believe that property has a spiritual dimension that must be respected. In this way, the groundwork is laid for another major theme, the nature of God and the influence of religion for good or for ill in human behavior.

Glossary

Generals Sullivan, Broadhead, and Wayne John Sullivan, Daniel Broadhead, and "Mad" Anthony Wayne, central figures in the settlement of Pennsylvania.

wolverine a four-footed mammal akin to the weasel.

panther kit a young panther.

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