What does True Son's crossing of the river symbolize in The Light in the Forest?
The river symbolizes the division between the white man's world and that of the Indians. When True Son crosses it, he has truly been separated from his Indian home, and, "from now forward he was on his own" in an alien and hostile land. True Son's friend Half Arrow has not been allowed to cross the river with him; "when they (come) to the river's edge, Half Arrow stepp(s) aside and True Son wade(s) in alone. The extent of the divide which the river symbolizes is emphasized when True Son looks back across the river to see Half Arrow and Little Crane standing there, their eyes straining after him. The fact that True Son is being taken to the white man's territory against his will is represented by the fact that he cannot even raise his hand in farewell, because his hands are tied (Chapter 4).
The wooden framed lodges of the white men symbolize to True Son the way they live out of harmony with nature. True Son thinks the lodges, built so close together, are confining; they make him feel that
"the whites...shut themselves up in prisons of gray stone and of red stone called brick, while the larger log houses (have) been covered over with smooth painted boards to give them the glittering ostentation and falseness so dear to the whites."
True Son thinks that the whites' values are superficial. To him, their houses indicate that they are not close to the earth like the Indian, and that they are enamored of riches and the appearance of wealth (Chapter 5).