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Written by Callie Labrador
Matt As The Teacher
When Matt first meets Attean and agrees to teach him to read he feels like the benevolent white man repaying a kindness to Attean's grandfather and as the teacher trying to educate a "savage". However it quickly becomes clear that it is Attean who is the teacher and Matt who is the student in almost all of their interactions.
Matt Impresses Attean
Matt has an inexplicable news to impress Attean probably because he feels like the stupid white boy in most situations in the forest. He wants Attean to be impressed with his part in saving them from the bear, or with his ability to recognize tracks, but Attean never seems to be impressed by anything that Matt does. Ironically it is not until Matt essentially does nothing at all, but decides to stay at the cabin and wait it out until his family arrive, honoring the promise he made his father, that Attean seems impressed with him as a person.
The Perceived Danger Of Indians
Matt's father has impressed upon him the need to be wary of Indians but the natives treated him with nothing but kindness and concern; the white man, whom Matt had been told he could trust, actually turns out to be the threat to Matt's safety as the renegade hunter, Ben, stays overnight at the cabin on a pretext and uses this as an opportunity to steal the gun his father had given him.
Matt As A Settler
Matt is a settler, a white man moving onto land traditionally owned by Native Americans. Settlers brought with them the new and modern ways of doing things; ironically when Matt's father arrives at the cabin he sees a bow and arrows, moccasins and a variety of hewn wooden bowls that Matt has made which suggests that rather than imposing the settlers' ways on the Indians Matt has actually been more influenced by them.
The Educated Versus The Uneducated
The settlers viewed themselves as educated and the natives as uneducated, primarily because they could read and write English when the natives could not. They equate education with intelligence; however the Indians show themselves to be very intelligent and can read signs that are not English but that enable them to hunt and track and also to live diplomatically and peacefully with other clans. Although the settlers might appear to be more educated it is the knowledge of the Indians and not the knowledge provided by his own education that enables Matt to survive in the forest.
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