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Written by Callie Labrador
Coming Of Age
Coming of age is a theme throughout the book as both Matt and Attean are transitioning from boyhood to manhood within their respective cultures. When Matt is left at the cabin by his father he is representing his father but is definitely the child. His experiences in having to learn skills in order to survive and having to experience the heavy snows of winter when his family are delayed in getting to the cabin force him to be self-sufficient and rely only on his own judgement which forces him to grow up quickly.
Attean is also a young boy when he and Matt first meet, and enjoys the outdoor life of hinting and fishing without any responsibility that accompanies it. After he has found his manitou, or spirit guide, he is seen to have come of age and with that assumes the appearance of the other men, and hunters, in the tribe.
Importance of Situational Knowledge
Matt, like all of the white men, believes himself to be better educated, and therefore more intelligent and civilized, than the Indians. He thinks of himself as the teacher as he is teaching Attean how to read; however it soon becomes apparent that Matt's skills and education are not going to help him survive in the forest. He realizes that in the forest Attean is the educated one, as although he cannot read English, he is able to read Indian signs, and to create and follow tracks and trails. He knows how to construct tools for hunting and how to feed oneself in the wilderness. Time and again the book shows is that although the boys have different education they are both intelligent and their individual education and skills are suited to the environment in which they learned them.
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