The Shepherd of the Hills emphasizes the simple pleasant existence that places a person closer to God. Wright suggests that only by returning to a simpler existence can men such as Daniel Howitt find the peace of mind that is lacking in the complex society in which they live. Another continuing theme of the book is that of redemption of sins. After discovering what his son had wrought in the death of Old Matt’s daughter, Howitt remains in Mutton Hollow, trying to undo the harm by helping Sammy Hale. His teaching of Sammy opens her mind and may save her from the fate suffered by Old Matt’s daughter. Sammy also learns from the Shepherd to value a simple life. Her engagement to Ollie Stewart promises her wealth and freedom from the drudgery and ignorance that is Mutton Hollow. However, she finds that such a change in her life will pull her away from God and her roots. Sammy rejects what would have been an easier life for one dedicated to family, community, and God.
This willingness to put aside false dreams of material goods and sophistication is another of the book’s themes, as is forgiveness. Old Matt had spent fifteen years living with burning hatred for the boy he blamed for his daughter’s death. However, his close relationship with Daniel Howitt and the discovery of Howard Howitt in the mine forces him to forgive past acts and to understand that both men and their children have suffered.