In the book The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter, is True Son ever able to reconcile his Indian identity with his white identity?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Initially, there is no conflict within True Son. He loathes the idea of going to live with the whites and can only think of the time when he will escape and return to his father Cuyloga and his Lenni Lenape people. He dislikes everything about the whites until he meets his real brother Gordie. The young boy helps True Son to change some of his attitudes toward the whites. When he and Half Arrow kill Uncle Wilse and escape Paxton Township, True Son is glad to be leaving behind the white world with its "plaster walls" and confining clothes. He does, however, feel remorse and an inner conflict about leaving Gordie behind:

His only shaft of regret was leaving Gordie. He could see him in his mind now, lying alone on their wide bed, a chattering squirrel by day, a bed-warming stone by night, only a little minny of a fellow waiting for his Indian brother to return.

This conflict continues when True Son learns in Chapter Fourteen that some of the Indians of the raiding party have taken the scalp of a small child. He had earlier bragged to his white mother that it was only the whites who committed such atrocities. He cannot reconcile what he feels is a breach in the etiquette of his Indian brothers:

But all the time the tender pieces of discarded scalp with long soft hairs the color of willow shoots in the spring kept entering True Son's blood like long worms clotting the free wild flow. He tried to forget what he had said to his white mother, that never had he seen a child's scalp taken by his Indian people.

True Son cannot accept the idea that the Indians, whom he always thought to be noble and above such barbarism, were no better than the whites. This internal conflict finally prompts True Son to act in a way that reveals his feelings for the whites when he signals to the men on the flat boat that they are about to be ambushed. He sees a child about Gordie's age on the boat and cannot go through with the ruse to get the whites to come close enough to shore for an attack. This behavior is ultimately seen as traitorous by the Indians and True Son is eventually abandoned by them and expected to live the rest of his life with the whites. The internal conflict is never resolved. True Son will probably never be happy in the white world and he realizes this in the book's final passage:

Ahead of him ran the rutted road of the whites. It led, he knew, to where men of their own volition constrained themselves with heavy clothing like harness, where men chose to be slaves to their own or another's property and followed empty and desolate lives far from the wild beloved freedom of the Indian.

It is ironic that the honor and morality which is ingrained in him by his Indian father Cuyloga is exactly the reason why he is no longer able to live with the Lenni Lenape. He had learned his Indian lessons too well and could not abide the hypocrisy which was exemplified by the taking of the child's scalp, regardless of motive. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial