The Light in the Forest By Conrad Richter Summary and Analysis Chapter 5

Summary

Outside Fort Pitt, local whites line the way to observe Bouquet's column. Del anticipates ridding himself of the irksome task of guarding True Son. In Carlisle, curious settlers examine the former captives for identifying marks. After Colonel Bouquet calls the gathering to order, families begin identifying lost relatives. True Son rejoices that he and two girls remain unclaimed. However, he is embarrassed when a pale, weak-looking man rides up and claims to be his birthfather.

On official orders, Del will accompany True Son to his white father's home and act as a translator between True Son and the white family, named Butler. True Son characterizes the role of Del as a guard to protect the whites from a fierce Indian boy they once knew as a family member.

Analysis

Beginning with Chapter 5, Richter dramatizes the struggles of a single exile against a hostile, impersonal world. True Son sees himself as the lone Indian, who must rely on his own "Indian thoughts" and "Indian counsel." He faces a white world that he characterizes as the "barbarous homeland of his white enemies" and is horrified at how whites have completely cut down the Indian forest, symbolic of how they will treat Indians in general.

True Son wears the stoic face that conceals anger and fear as he approaches drunken soldiers and turncoat Indians before he passes beyond Fort Pitt to the white civilization that lies ahead. Again Richter speaks from an Indian point of view when he voices his dismay at the desolation of deforestation and spoiled earth.

True Son mourns that "white destroyers" have left no habitat for game and puzzles over "curious wooden barriers [that run] alongside in a regular crooked fashion with spreading wooden horns at each angle," an Indian's view of the standard colonial-era split-rail fence. By late afternoon, True Son stands surrounded by homes of gray stone, red brick, and stucco that he describes as "prisons," seeing them as models of "the glittering ostentation and falseness so dear to the whites."

When True Son finally meets his white father, he again encounters the total opposite of the Indian ideal of fatherhood and has contempt for this "inferior figure" who is nothing compared to his Indian father. In the white world, not even the concepts of family and fatherhood are the same. For True Son's white father, reuniting with his son is an emotional meeting that he greets with misty eyes and a trembling hand, which True Son disparagingly interprets as revealing his feelings in front of all. When True Son says, "He's not my father," Mr. Butler recoils with his first inkling that True Son/Johnny does not view his return to his white family with happiness and relief. He and his son have no basis for communication; they do not even speak the same language.

The last line in the chapter intimates that True Son has taken Cuyloga's advice to heart and has already begun to plan to gain control of his life.

Glossary

stockade an enclosure or defensive wall formed of sharpened poles set in the earth in order to inhibit attackers.

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