Standing in the Light Discussion Guide
To the Discussion Leader
Standing in the Light: The Captive Diary of Catharine Carey Logan is Mary Pope Osborne's story of a Quaker girl living in the Delaware Valley of Pennsylvania in 1763. In her diary entries, Catharine describes life in her close-knit family: the importance of their religion and her fear over the growing tensions between the Indians and the settlers. Then, on January 9, 1764, Catharine's life changes forever when she and her younger brother, Thomas, are taken captive by Lenape Indians.
Catharine's captive diary reflects her anger and fear at being captured. She never lets go of her determination to find her brother and look out for him. She longs to return to her Quaker family. But as time in captivity lengthens, readers see a change in Catharine: she starts to see her captors as real people with their own religion and customs.
Readers get an intimate look at American life in the Pennsylvania of 1763. The Quaker religion, William Penn, The Walking Purchase, and the causes of friction between settlers and Native Americans all come to life in Catharine's diary entries.
Catharine Logan, herself, came to life in Mary Pope Osborne's eyes as she wrote this story in a cabin in the woods deep in the Delaware Valley of Pennsylvania. Osborne writes, "My own experience in the Delaware Valley made Catharine's life feel immediate and alive to me." Readers of Standing in the Light: The Captive Diary of Catharine Carey Logan will feel those same emotions.
On January 6, 1764, Catharine Carey Logan wonders, "Could the slaughter of the Indians cause some to rise against us? Could bands of warriors be planning now to swoop down and avenge those who were murdered?" The next day, she and her seven-year-old brother Thomas are captured by four Lenape Indians.
Catharine and her family are Quakers who live in a colony called Pennsylvania, or Penn's forest. For the most part, life has been peaceful and prosperous because the Quakers and Delaware Indians have enjoyed a mutually trusting relationship. Recently, however, newcomers and even some Quakers have destroyed this friendship by killing Indians and burning Indian villages.
As an Indian captive, Catharine fears for her life and longs for her family. She is handed over to an old woman. Days pass, and she gradually assumes the duties of a female member of the tribe. Each day, a young warrior leads Catharine through the woods and teaches her the tribal ways. From him, Catharine learns that she is a replacement daughter for her new mother, White Owl.
As a member of the Lenni Lenape tribe, Catharine's life is radically different from her Quaker past. She is shocked by her brother Thomas's rapid adaptation and eager acceptance of the Lenape lifestyle and worries about her own gradual compliance. But Catharine discovers many philosophical and theological similarities between her past and her present. As the winter evolves into spring, Catharine poses a question in her diary: "Who is my neighbor?" Her response indicates change in the girl who, just months earlier, feared capture by heathen savages: "The Lenape are my neighbors. Sitting here peacefully, I feel a current of God's love running through this life, though He is known here by a different name."
Catharine's captivity has a permanent effect on her world view. Before living as a Lenape, she feared the world outside her village and thought of little more than school, boyfriends, and hair ribbons. By the end of her experience she realizes that all people share the same joys, hopes, and fears, and finds that "the same light of humanity" shines in the hearts of both Quakers and Lenape.
Thinking About the Book
- Why did the Lenape tribe capture Catharine and her brother Thomas?
- Discuss the results of the Extravagant Day's Walk. What did the Delaware Indians and the original English treaty-makers expect from the agreement? Did the English abide by the spirit as well as the letter of the pact? What were the long-term effects of the Walking Purchase?
- Re-read the section in the diary when Snow Hunter angrily confronts Catharine and says, "I scorn you because you do not think of the Lenape as fellow creatures..." (pp. 74-77). Why is this a major turning point in Catharine's life in captivity?
- Why does Snow Hunter have an eagle tattooed on his cheek?
- Dreams are important in Catharine's diary. Look back at the following dreams and explain how they give readers a hint of what will take place later on.
- Catharine's dream of going for water, breaking ice, and seeing Thomas float in the air. (p. 54)
- Catharine's dream of Thomas being covered by the shadow of an eagle. (p. 70)
- Catharine's dream of the white bears coming. (p. 114)
- When Catharine returns to her Quaker family, she lets Papa read her diary. Catharine writes, "In a low voice, he told me that my diary had taught him that I stood in the light." (November 12, 1764). What did Papa mean?
- After Thunder Arrow tells the story of the turtle and how the world began, Catharine asks Snow Hunter if he believes it. He answers by saying that different peoples have different dreams and since this is the dream of his people, he dreams it also. Many different cultures around the world have their own versions of how the world began. They are called creation myths. Go to the library and find some of these stories. Compare them with Thunder Arrow's tale.
- As Catharine learns the meaning of White Owl's Lenape name, she says, "Now that I know the meaning of her name, she seems more real to me, and less a 'savage' stranger." Dividing into small groups, invent a name that best fits each group member. For the rest of the day, think of yourself as that person.
- Religion plays an important role in Catharine's diary. See if you can list five similarities between the religious beliefs of the Quakers and those of the Lenape people.
- In some ways, when Catharine and Thomas return to their real family, it is not a wonderful experience. She writes, "I will never belong here again. I have no home." Pretend you are Catharine. Write a diary entry explaining why you feel this way.
- Much information is available through the internet about the Lenni Lenape tribe that captured Catharine and her brother Thomas. Do some research about the tribe and share your findings with your discussion group.
Discussion Guide written by Richard F. Abrahamson, Ph.D., Professor of Literature for Children and Young Adults, University of Houston, Houston, Texas, and Linda M. Pavonetti, Ed.D., Assistant Professor, Oakland University, Department of Reading and Language Arts, Rochester, Michigan.