What actions or events best reveal Sam’s true identity? What do those events or actions say about who he really is?
In “My Side of the Mountain,” Sam Gribley is a city kid who runs away from home to live alone on the wild property of his ancestors in the Catskill Mountains. At first you might think that this will be a “fish out of water” story—one in which a character is thrown into an unfamiliar environment and must figure out how to adapt and survive in it. And to an extent, it is. But Sam really rises to the occasion here. He’s already done some “homework” for this adventure. He tells us in the second chapter, “In Which I Get Started on This Venture,” that he once read a library book on survival skills. He remembers enough from the book to recognize some plants that are edible. The rest he learns and teaches himself as the need arises. In each chapter in this book, Sam learns something new—about something edible, or something useful he can make, or something about his own abilities and capabilities. Sometimes he goes to the town library to find out more information from books, too. He has to learn these things in order to survive.
By the end of this book, Sam is no longer just another anonymous city kid. He knows how to live off the land, to live close to nature, and to read the clues left by the animals and plants around him. He shows himself (and his family, and us) that he is good at problem-solving. He is good at setting goals and in following up on them. It seems as though he’s been living in the Catskills forever, instead of just one year. It seems as though being a nature-sensitive outdoorsman is who Sam Gribley was meant to be all along. It may have been his real identity, just waiting in the background for the right moment for Sam to prove it—to himself, and to everyone else.