The Sign of the Beaver Essay Questions

Essay Questions

  1. 1

    In what ways are Matt's preconceptions about Attean proved incorrect?

    Matt has formed his ideas about the Indians from his father and like most settlers believes that because they are unable to read and write the Indians must be less intelligent. He also believes that it is he who will be the teacher and Attean who will be the student. Attean turns out to be very intelligent and a quick study, with a somewhat sarcastic sense of humor. Moreover, it is Matt who has much to learn from the Indian boy; if it wasn't for Attean he would be unable to hunt after his fun in stolen, and he would not know how to select wood to make bows and arrows. Far from being the teacher it is Matt who is the student and it is clear that he has a great deal to learn.

  2. 2

    How does Elizabeth George Speare teach the reader about the historical details of the 1700s for the settlers without seeming to do so?

    The author very cleverly weaves accurate historical detail into the novel by making it part of Matt's journey of discovery. For example, we learn why the Indians found it hard to adapt to the white man's arrival and why their ways and traditions were often incompatible with the ways and methods of the settlers. We learn much about the way in which Indian tribes and clans utilized the forest for food and clothing and intricate details such as the methods used to make corn cakes or to dry fruit. By having a character who is learning about his new surroundings, Speare makes it possible for the reader to learn along with him without the flow of the plot being disrupted and therefore enables us to learn without realizing that we are doing so.

  3. 3

    In what ways does Matt change during the story?

    Matt begins his time in the cabin understandably nervous and with considerable trepidation about how he will pass the time. This wears off quickly as he discovers that there is more to get done each day than there are hours for, and that he prefers to do chores without anyone telling him how to do them. He begins the novel with the notion that the says of his people are better than the ways of the Indians, but realizes that whilst that may be the case in a city or town it is not the case in the forest. He becomes more open minded and less apt to judge on preconceived notions. He is able to feel confidence in his own judgement rather than relying on his father's. he is also increasingly resourceful and at thirteen years of age able to use his new skills to create a safe home for his family. Matt really comes of age in the novel and goes from being a boy to a responsible young man during his experiences in the wilderness.

  4. 4

    The Indians have many traditions that fascinate Matt. What are some of these and how do they show him more about the clan?

    The Indians have incredible respect for nature and the circle of life despite their considerable hunting abilities. Whenever Attean kills an animal it is for food or clothing not for sport or pleasure and he always apologizes to the animal in question. This is especially clear when the boys kill a bear in self defense, and Attean is almost sad to have done so. Similarly they also have a tradition of respecting the boundaries of each clan's land and this is demonstrated when the boys kill a beaver but leave it where they found it because Attean spots a crude turtle carved into a tree denoting the area as Turtle Clan land.

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