The Sign of the Beaver Chapter 19

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

Lauren has taught English at the university level and has a master's degree in literature.

This lesson gives an overview of Chapter 19 of The Sign of the Beaver. In this chapter, we see Matt invited back to Attean's village by Attean's grandmother--the very one who was so against him coming the first time!

An Unexpected Invitation

Chapter 19 of The Sign of the Beaver begins with Attean telling Matt matter-of-factly, ''Grandmother say you come to village today.'' Matt is so used to being disliked by the old woman that he responds by telling Attean that his hand is better and doesn't need any more medicine. It doesn't occur to Matt that Attean's grandmother could simply want him to visit. Attean assures him this is the case, however, adding that ''My grandmother very surprise white boy go long way for Indian dog.'' By saving Attean's dog in the previous chapter, Matt seems to have won some respect in the Indian village, even from the grandmother who was so set against him from the start.


In the village, Matt shares another meal with Attean's family, but this time he is not rushed away or hidden at any point. We see more of the sexism rampant among the village as the women serve the meal to the men, but they don't eat until after the men are finished. Matt notices this, but Attean and his grandfather seem to think there is nothing wrong with it. This sexism is seen again when, while on a tour of the village, Matt is very interested in all of the work the women are doing. He sees many useful things he could learn--like how to make a basket that will hold water. Attean, however, expresses impatience at Matt's interest in 'women's work' and eventually hurries him off to play games with a group of boys.

A Bit of Hazing

Approaching a ring of Indian boys, Attean and Matt join in their game. The game involves tossing a bunch of disks as if they were dice. If the disks land colored side up, you win. If they don't, you lose. Instead of money changing hands, the boys use sticks--but as soon as someone loses and doesn't have anymore sticks to give, that person has to give some possession of his to the winner. When Matt's turn comes to lose, he has nothing to give but the shirt off his own back--literally. Matt handles this loss graciously enough, even though he tells us this is the only shirt he owns. What is he going to do with no shirt to wear as the fall comes on??

Bruises and Black Eyes

After losing his shirt, Matt goes on to play some more games with the boys. One game includes a kind of bat and a ball. Matt shies away from nothing, despite the fact that these games are all new to him. He does poorly more often than not, but the Indian boys seem to respect him for trying. They also seem to purposefully rough him up a little, just for fun--he catches an elbow in the eye at one point.

After getting thoroughly hot and sweaty, the boys all jump in the river. The wrestling continues in the water. The boys take turns plunging one another beneath the surface. ''Suddenly'' we read, ''Suddenly Matt was enjoying himself. It was almost as good as being back in Quincy again.''

Victory of Some Kind

At the end of the day, Attean takes Matt to say goodbye to his grandmother. Matt stands there, dripping, bruised, with a black eye and no shirt. He thanks the woman for her hospitality. He blushes as she glowers at him, but then she says something to Attean and he runs off, carrying back Matt's shirt. Apparently she was displeased with the boys for taking his shirt, not with Matt for looking a mess! Even Attean's dog seems to like Matt now--he is finally able to pat the mangy hound. It even wags its tail at him.

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