Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

As a lone novel, THE TREES is an uncomplicated story of the life and feelings of an early pioneer family. When read with the other two novels of Conrad Richter’s trilogy, THE FIELDS and THE TOWN, it becomes part of a commentary on progress in early America and its effects upon the land and its people.

Although written in the third person, much of the story involves Sayward’s thoughts and feelings about her family and her home. Her attitudes and philosophy develop during three stages of her life: as a young, dutiful daughter, as a “big sister” in the role of mother, and as a wife to Portius Wheeler. Although illiterate, Sayward displays an understanding of people that even trained psychologists would find difficult. This perception enriches the portrayals of other characters and leaves no doubt that this is Sayward’s story.

Although with less depth than with Sayward, Richter also gives considerable insight into the behavior and thoughts of the family’s other members. Each individual represents a different response to life on the new and diminishing frontier. Jary cannot face the realities of pioneer life and gives up, physically and mentally; Worth and Wyitt are not satisfied to stay in one place, remaining only from loyalty to family; Genny is the gentle lady who insists that civilities can exist in the wilderness; Achsa is as wild, irresponsible, and stubborn as the thick forest growth; Sulie is the lost...

(The entire section is 446 words.)