The Light in the Forest: Notes

The Light in the Forest: Notes

The Light in the Forest: Notes

The Light in the Forest: Notes


Conrad Richter, one of American literature's preeminent authors on the American frontier, highlights family hardship, individual suffering, and societal breakup in The Light in the Forest. Impeccably researched, Richter's novel takes place at a time of rapid change in the 18th century. True Son/Johnny is the protagonist, a white boy captured at the age of 4 by the Lenni Lenape Indians and later adopted as one of their own. Forced to return to his white family 11 years later, True Son/Johnny must address what it means to belong and face the consequence of defying those ties.


Conrad Michael Richter, the son of the Reverend John Absalom Richter and Charlotte Esther Henry Richter, was born on October 13, 1890, in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, a town named by his great-grandfather, a tavern keeper. His mother’s family included tradesmen, craftsmen, a United States congressman, and a hero of the War of 1812. Richter’s interest in philosophy and religion derived from his paternal grandfather and uncle, both circuit-riding clergymen, and his father, a former storekeeperturned-Lutheran-pastor to small parishes of coal miners.

Opting for a writing career, Richter gave up his original plans to major in philosophy and religion. At nineteen, he began reporting for the Patton, Pennsylvania, Courier. To improve his writing style, he sought editing jobs on the Johnstown Journal and Leader and the Pittsburgh Dispatch.

From 1910 to 1924, Richter served as a private secretary—a position that enabled him to travel—to a wealthy Cleveland family. During this period, in 1915, his short story “Brothers of No Kin” was included in The Best Short Stories of 1915. He also published various stories in Ladies’ Home Journal, American, and Saturday Evening Post, and wrote children’s stories for John Martin’s Book.

Also in 1915, Richter married Harvena Maria Achenbach and settled outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. the couple had only one child, a daughter. To support the family, Richter opened a publishing firm in Reading, Pennsylvania, but he earned little from his first published title, Brothers of No Kin and Other Stories (1924).

When his wife became ill in 1928, Richter sold the Reading publishing firm and resettled first near the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and later in Arizona. a lover of history from boyhood, he studied American Southwest history and . . .

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