The Light in the Forest

by Conrad Richter

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Why does True Son contemplate suicide in The Light in the Forest?

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True Son is determined not to be taken back to live among the white men, but his father is unyielding, and says that he must go. When he learns that he must leave his home the next day for Pennsylvania, he is filled with despair, and cannot imagine living among the people he so despises. He thinks,

"Never would he go to this enemy land. How could he exist among a race of aliens with such slouching ways and undignified speech! How could he live and breathe and not be an Indian!"

Feeling that he has no way out, True Son remembers his father's friend, Make Daylight, who had been forsaken by his squaw, and had eaten the root of the May apple so as not to have to live with his disgrace. Since he had been a brave warrior, the tribe had not condemned Make Daylight for his action, and True Son feels that they would act in the same way towards him. True Son is determined not to be taken to Pennsylvania to live among the white man. To him, death is a far better and more honorable alternative.

The ancient sycamore that stands at the forks of the Muskigum is symbolic of the parting of trails that True Son must face. The tree has "one dead limb pointing to the gloomy trace to Pennsylvania," and, on the far side, "a live branch indicat(ing) the path running bright and free toward home." It is significant that the dead limb points toward the land of the white man, where True Son dreads to go, while the live branch points the way home, where True Son might live in happiness and freedom (Chapter 3).

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