The Sign of the Beaver: Setting & Characters

Instructor: Abby Federico

Abby has taught elementary special education and has her master's degree in this area.

This lesson will give you details about the novel 'The Sign of the Beaver' by Elizabeth George Speare. After this lesson, you will have learned about the main characters and the setting of the novel.

Setting in 'The Sign of the Beaver'

Imagine living in the middle of nowhere, with no neighbors for miles. The only other people around are Native Americans, who are known for attacking people like you. Now imagine your father leaves you alone for the ENTIRE summer! This is exactly what happened to the main character in The Sign of the Beaver.

The setting in The Sign of the Beaver is in the year of 1769. At this time many people were exploring and traveling to different parts of the American colonies in order to find places to build homes. Matt and his father are in the state of Maine. Their cabin is in the wilderness, with only the Native Americans nearby. At this time, there were many fights between the white settlers and Native Americans, as the white settlers took over more and more Native American land. The area is near the Penobscot River. Many settlers tried to build homes near water, so that they could have water for drinking, crops, and washing. The book takes place throughout the summer and into the winter of 1769.

This is what the cabin Matt and his father built might have looked like
log cabin


Matt Hallowell: Matt is the main character of the novel. He is a 13-year-old boy who is in the wilderness of Maine with his father building a home for their family. When his father goes back to Massachusetts to get his mother and sister, Matt is left alone to look after the cabin. Matt starts having some troubles and gets help from the local Native Americans. They teach him how to hunt, fish, and trap so that he is able to survive. Matt becomes very close to one of the Native Americans, Attean.

Matt's father: Matt's father is a pioneer (one of the first people to settle or explore a new area). He brings Matt to help him build the cabin, then has enough confidence in Matt to allow him to stay there alone. Matt's father has taught him how to figure out ways to survive. Matt's father is also respectful towards Native Americans, which he has passed on to Matt.

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