Sam changes in terms of learning the skills he needs to survive in the rural hinterlands and developing into a more mature, less impulsive boy. At the outset, Sam’s tremendous desire to prove himself and to commune with nature seems highly unrealistic. As he demonstrates frequently his limited grasp of what wildness and wild things actually are, his actions endanger him rather than furthering his objective of living off the land. His personal growth largely consists of developing respect for coexisting with the world around him, in contrast to imposing his will.
Sam learns many lessons the hard way. Although he has fire-making tools, that does not translate into success. Initially he assumes that nature’s bounty will provide for him, but does not think ahead about winter scarcity and the need to stockpile supplies.
In part through his own interactions with other humans, and in part through observing that even the animals depend on each other, Sam learns that living “alone” in the wild requires a tremendous interdependency with others; he starts to turn into an environmentalist.