In The Light in the Forest, Richter presents the Indians’ point of view toward the settlement of the wilderness, putting an unusual twist on the traditional captivity tale: He tells the story of a white boy who resents being returned to his natural parents. John Butler was only four years old when Delaware Indians captured him during a raid on his father’s farm in western Pennsylvania. Adopted by a tribal chief and renamed True Son, he lived for more than a decade in the Ohio wilderness until Colonel Bouquet’s treaty with the Delaware Indians called for the repatriation of all white captives. On True Son’s reluctant journey to the Paxton settlement, he sees an ancient sycamore that symbolizes his predicament. A dead limb points toward the white settlement, while a live branch points back toward his beloved Indian culture. The conflict in the story turns on these two claims to his loyalty.
Stubbornly insisting on his Indian identity, True Son refuses all efforts to reinstate him into the life of family and community. His invalid mother seems ineffectual, and his father preoccupied with business ledgers and property. Only his little brother, Gordon, provides comfort and companionship. True Son reserves his greatest hostility for his uncle, Wilse Owens, an Indian-hater and one of the Paxton Boys, who had massacred Indian women and children in an earlier reprisal against the Conestoga.
True Son’s smoldering resentment at his “captivity” in the white settlement reaches a crisis when Half Arrow, his adopted Indian cousin, visits one night to show True Son the body of Little Crane, slain when he tried to visit his repatriated white wife. True Son confronts his uncle, accusing him of the murder. In the ensuing...
(The entire section is 717 words.)