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How does Matt earn Attean's complete respect in The Sign of the Beaver?

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kwash | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 29, 2009 at 1:30 AM via web

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How does Matt earn Attean's complete respect in The Sign of the Beaver?

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 26, 2010 at 6:50 AM (Answer #1)

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Matt earns Attean's complete respect by essentially doing nothing. Winter is coming, and Matt's father has not arrived; Attean's grandfather Saknis has invited Matt to accompany the tribe to their new hunting grounds, but Matt chooses to remain faithful to the promise he made to his father and continue waiting for his return. In showing this kind of loyalty to his family and his word, Matt earns the respect of his Indian friend.

When Attean comes to visit Matt one more time before his tribe leaves, he asks Matt if he has changed his mind and will accompany them. Matt unhappily declines, saying,

"Please try to understand, Attean. I must wait for my father."

Attean responds,

"I understand...my grandfather understand too. I do same for my father if he still live."

There is "no amusement and no scorn" in Attean's eyes when he says this. Matt thinks,

"How very strange...after all the brave deeds he had dreamed of to win this boy's respect, he had gained it at last just by doing nothing, just by staying here and refusing to leave."

It is the strength of character Matt shows in choosing to remain and wait for his father that impresses Attean. Attean understands how hard it must be for Matt to make this decision, especially since by not going with the Indians, he will be truly alone in the deep wilderness, with no guarantee that his father will ever be able to return. Courage and integrity are highly valued traits in the Indian culture, and Attean both recognizes and respects these attributes he sees in Matt (Chapter 22).

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