In Literature Transition, students have to write an essay on the theme of "an outsider" from the book, The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter. Below is Daniel Ekstrom’s paper on the character True Son. To learn more about our classes click HERE.
Most people have encountered stories about outsiders. Conrad Richter’s The Light in the Forest examines the theme of “the outsider” through his young protagonist, True Son. The name “True Son” implies that he belongs to a family that loves him, but ironically, by the end of the book, True Son is rejected by all who know him. First, True Son becomes an outsider after he is kidnapped and adopted by the Delaware Indians, who teach him to hate the white nation and its culture. Second, True Son becomes an outsider when he is returned to his white family and forced to live with his enemies. Third, at the end, True Son makes two moral decisions that result in his banishment from both cultures.
True Son first becomes an outsider after he is kidnapped and adopted by the Delaware, who teach him to hate the white men and their culture. From Cuyloga, True Son learned that white men continually drove Indian tribes farther west, stealing their lands and killing many of them. Also, white men wouldn’t hesitate to slaughter Indian women and children, but the Delaware would adopt their captives if they would make good Indians. After his capture, True Son was adopted by Cuyloga to take the place of his dead son, and he was accepted as a full member of the tribe. Additionally, Little Crane explained that the Indians were an original people, but the whites were not. “The Great Being made us from the beginning,” Little Crane said, pointing out that Indian features were always dark. The whites, however, were multi-colored, just like horses, and that made them “foolish and troublesome.” (Richter 27) The Indians taught True Son to hate the culture he had been born in; he never wanted to return to his white family.
True Son becomes an outsider when he is returned to his white family and forced to live with his enemies. One thing True Son could not understand was why the whites imprisoned every living thing. They erected second houses called barns to store their animals in; they shut themselves up in stone houses, when they had the countryside to roam freely in; and they even confined God to their churches, when He really lived out in the vast beautiful terrain He had created. When True Son refused to assimilate, his family imprisoned him in white man’s garments, which he found unbearably uncomfortable and impractical. True Son, believing the whites were morally inferior, often declared the crimes they had committed against the Indians, which enraged some of his relatives. After True Son was returned to his white family, his only thought was escape.
After he did escape, True Son made two moral decisions that resulted in his banishment from both the Indian and white cultures. As True Son escaped the white village with his cousin, Half Arrow, the two boys began to scalp his uncle, taking revenge for the death of Little Crane. By committing this crime, True Son understood that he had banished himself from his white family’s culture. Later the Indians used True Son to lure a boatload of whites into an ambush, but when he saw a boy about Gordie’s age (his white brother), he warned the whites away before the Indians could slaughter them. Then the Indians held a council to decide whether they should kill True Son or not. Cuyloga, True Son’s Indian father, prevented the Indians from killing him but sent the betrayer back to live with the white men. True Son became an outsider in both cultures, having betrayed both the whites and the Indians.
In the narrative The Light in the Forest, Conrad Richter developed his main character as an outsider in several ways. First, True Son becomes an outsider after he is kidnapped and adopted by the Delaware Indians, who teach him to hate the white nation and its culture. Second, True Son becomes an outsider when he is returned to his white family and forced to live with his enemies. Third, at the end, True Son makes two moral decisions that result in his banishment from both cultures. True Son, also known as John Cameron Butler, was caught in between two cultures that despised each other. His body and blood were white, but his mind and soul were Indian. He didn’t know where he belonged, and neither culture could accept him for who he was.
Daniel Ekstrom is a 10-year-old student at Veritas. Enrolled in the Diploma Program since first grade (when he was four), he loves learning about science, reading adventure novels, creating Lego worlds, writing stories, acting, and playing viola in a string trio with his siblings. Daniel and his family live in Minnesota.