The Light in the Forest Study Guide

The Light in the Forest Study Guide

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The Light in the Forest

The Light in The Forest by Conrad Richter is a fiction novel telling us the story about the white boy, captured by Native Americans and raised as one of their tribe and then captured by the white people and re-assimilated. The book raises questions of cultural values and the general human values that are above any cultural differences - such as compassion and mercy.

The author plays with the traditional concepts of “good” cowboys and “bad” Indians, showing that the characters who are often portrayed as heroes of western movies can be sadistic and bigoted inside, and the “noble savages” who possess almost knightly virtues may plan a horrible and cruel revenge on the innocent people.

In the book we see the main character from two different angles: he is much more mature than any of the white boys of his age, he possesses much more knowledge about the world around him and follows a strict code of honor of his tribe - but from the other hand he still remains a child, who just didn’t have childhood in a way we understand it. We see that he gradually warms up to his biological parents, learns to trust them and accept the social values of white people. This process is shown so vividly and realistically that people who worked with recently adopted kids from orphanages can easily recognize these patterns of behaviour.

The main character has to make his ultimate choice in the end - but he chooses not between cultures, but between revenge and mercy, honor and compassion. Whatever choice he makes he will be forever rejected by the dearest people. This choice is hard even for an adult and impossible for the child. We have to admit that Native American upbringing not only took away his playful childhood - it made him prepared for the hardship of life and allowed him to stand against everything and triumph.

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