Chapters 7-9 Summary
Matt has no idea how to teach Attean to read. Matt recalls the primer from which his mother had taught him, and he tries to find familiar objects in the cabin to correspond to each letter as a way to introduce the alphabet. Remembering the undisguised hostility expressed by the Indian boy the day before, Matt begins to doubt that he will actually come today. To Matt's surprise, Attean does arrive, carrying a dead rabbit which he unceremoniously deposits on the table.
Matt thanks Attean for the offering and then instructs him to sit on a stool next to him. Matt begins the lesson, introducing the letter A. Although the boy stares straight ahead in silence, he is a quick learner and is able to pick out the letter where it appears on a page of Robinson Crusoe. When Matt explains that there are twenty-six letters in the alphabet, Attean finally breaks his silence and angrily demands how long it will take for him to learn to read. Matt tells him that it will take "some time...it might take a year." In frustration, Attean angrily storms out of the cabin.
When Attean returns the next day, Matt decides to skip the alphabet lessons and reads aloud from Robinson Crusoe instead. Skipping over the parts that might be perceived as dull and wordy, he begins with the story of the storm at sea and Crusoe's resulting shipwreck. Attean sits impassively, and Matt, chagrined, wonders whether the boy understands a single word of what he has been reading. When he stops, however, Attean asks, "White man get out of water?" Attean has indeed not only understood but has been actively engaged in the narrative.
The next day, Matt continues reading from Robinson Crusoe, describing how the man lands on a small, unnamed island and swims back out to the wrecked ship to salvage items that might be useful to him. Attean scoffs at this,...
(The entire section is 640 words.)