Forest is the sentient forest that surrounds Village and contains the paths that lead to a number of other settlements. The characters in the novel overwhelmingly interact with Forest as though it's a living, breathing, deity-like entity with the power to warn people that it doesn't want them in it, and then kill them if they don't heed its warning. However, Seer tells Matty that this is just an illusion and at the end of the novel, when Forest is in the process of killing Matty, Matty realizes what Seer meant: Forest is actually a living representation of the fear, greed, and hunger for power that the novel suggests exists within all humans. Taken in this context, Forest becomes representative of the way that fear and suspicion create more fear and suspicion in other people—and ultimately, how those negative emotions and desires can corrupt and transform people (and places) that were once kind and loving into unrecognizable monsters.
Forest Quotes in Messenger
"Were you scared of Forest?" Matty asked him. So many people were, and with good reason.
"No. It's all an illusion."
Matty frowned. He didn't know what the blind man meant. Was he saying that fear was an illusion? Or that Forest was? [...] Maybe, Matty thought, everything was an illusion to a man who had lost his eyes.
Others from Village rarely ventured into Forest. It was dangerous for them. Sometimes Forest closed in and entangled people who had tried to travel beyond. There had been terrible deaths, with bodies brought out strangled by vines or branches that had reached out malevolently around the throats and limbs of those who decided to leave Village. Somehow Forest knew. Somehow, too, it knew that Matty's travels were benign and necessary. The vines had never reached out for him. The trees seemed, sometimes, almost to part and usher him through.
Matty glanced over and saw that she was standing in front of the tapestry Kira had made for her father. Even from where he stood, he could see what Jean meant. The entire forest area, the hundreds of tiny stitches in shades of green, had darkened, and the threads had knotted and twisted in odd ways. The peaceful scene had changed into something no longer beautiful. It had an ominous feel to it, a feel of impenetrability.
But on this journey, something was different. For the first time, Matty felt hostility from Forest. The fish were slow to come to his hook. A chipmunk, usually an amiable companion, chittered angrily and bit his finger when he held his hand toward it. Many red berries, of a kind he had always eaten, had black spots on them and tasted bitter; and for the first time he noticed poison ivy growing across the path again and again, where it had never grown before.
When the sinister, curling stem—in appearance not unlike the pea vines that grew in early summer in their garden—reached his ankle, it began to curl tightly around his flesh. Quickly he reached down and severed it with the small blade. Within seconds it turned brown and fell away from him, lifeless.
But there seemed no victory to it. Only a pause in a battle he was bound to lose.
Stumbling and bleeding, he wished briefly that he had brought some kind of weapon. But what would have protected him against Forest itself? It was a force too huge to fight with a knife or a club.
He saw Forest and understood what Seer had meant. It was an illusion. It was a tangled knot of fears and deceits and dark struggles for power that had disguised itself and almost destroyed everything. Now it was unfolding, like a flower coming into bloom, radiant with possibility.