The Light in the Forest

by Conrad Richter

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What is the "Peshtank Story" in The Light in the Forest, and True Son's feelings towards it?

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The "Peshtank Story" is the story of the massacre of a village of Conestogo Indians by white men. "Peshtank" is the Indian pronunciation for the town of Paxton, Pennsylvania.

True Son remembers his father telling the "Peshtank Story." It occurred in December, ironically "the month that the white men claim their good, kind Lord and master was born in." A handful of Conestogo Indians who had taken the Christian faith were living in peace among the white men in a small village, when "white savages from Peshtank" came and slaughtered the Conestogo. Only some Indians who had been away at the time survived, and when they returned to find their village burned and their brothers killed, they went to the nearby town of Lancaster and asked to be sheltered in the white man's gaol, where they felt they would be safe. A day or two before Christmas, the Peshtank "barbarians" came again and broke into the jail, and no white man in Lancaster lifted a finger to stop them. The Peshtank men killed all the Conestoga, men, women, and children alike, scalping and mutilating them, for no reason other than that they did not want the Indians "even to share the common air."

True Son remembers the story with "a cold hatred" and "a feeling of abhorrence." The "Peshtank Story" colors his reaction towards all white men, and he looks upon them with repulsion and rage (Chapter 7).

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