Messenger

Forest Symbol Icon

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

The Messenger quotes below all refer to the symbol of Forest. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Selfishness vs. the Collective Good Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt edition of Messenger published in 2004.
Chapter One Quotes

"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.

Related Characters: Matty (speaker), Seer (speaker)
Related Symbols: Forest
Page Number: 5-6
Explanation and Analysis:
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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.

Related Characters: Matty
Related Symbols: Forest
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter Eleven Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Matty, Kira, Seer, Jean
Related Symbols: Forest
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter Twelve Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Matty
Related Symbols: Forest
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter Seventeen Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Matty, Kira
Related Symbols: Forest
Page Number: 166-67
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter Nineteen Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Leader
Related Symbols: Forest
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter Twenty-One Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Matty, Leader, Kira, Mentor, Seer
Related Symbols: Forest
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Forest Symbol Timeline in Messenger

The timeline below shows where the symbol Forest appears in Messenger. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter One
Selfishness vs. the Collective Good Theme Icon
Youth, Memory, and the Future Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
Identity and Difference Theme Icon
...door. Seer tells Matty to light a lamp and tells Matty that he remembers what Forest was like at night, back when he could see. Matty asks if Seer was afraid... (full context)
Selfishness vs. the Collective Good Theme Icon
Youth, Memory, and the Future Theme Icon
Identity and Difference Theme Icon
Matty takes a meandering route to Forest so he can pass by the schoolteacher's house. The schoolteacher's name is Mentor, though some... (full context)
Selfishness vs. the Collective Good Theme Icon
Youth, Memory, and the Future Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
Identity and Difference Theme Icon
Matty follows Forest's paths. He's comfortable in Forest and knows where to go. Others, however, don't enter Forest... (full context)
Chapter Two
Selfishness vs. the Collective Good Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
...their fishing rods to fish and Ramon explains what happened last night: Gatherer died in Forest. Ramon's tone is self-important, and Matty privately thinks that Ramon's true name might be Boaster.... (full context)
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
...remember how Gatherer used to throw berries to them. Ramon says that Gatherer went into Forest to tell his wife's family about their new baby. Matty asks if Gatherer had had... (full context)
Selfishness vs. the Collective Good Theme Icon
Youth, Memory, and the Future Theme Icon
...now his home. With gratitude, he watches everyone, wishes Gatherer's body peace, and looks to Forest. He can see beyond the shadows, and what he sees makes him uneasy. He can't... (full context)
Chapter Five
Selfishness vs. the Collective Good Theme Icon
Youth, Memory, and the Future Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
Identity and Difference Theme Icon
Matty remembers healing the frog. He'd been in Forest and stepped on the frog on accident. The frog was injured, and its hind leg... (full context)
Chapter Nine
Selfishness vs. the Collective Good Theme Icon
Youth, Memory, and the Future Theme Icon
Identity and Difference Theme Icon
...she thinks she needs to leave Vladik here and go back. Matty hesitates, wondering if Forest will entangle the woman. Noting her injuries, he wonders if she was stoned. He tells... (full context)
Chapter Eleven
Youth, Memory, and the Future Theme Icon
Identity and Difference Theme Icon
...messages inside his shirt. His job is to post messages on all the paths through Forest so that people have the time to turn back. The only settlement Matty will go... (full context)
Youth, Memory, and the Future Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
...lifts his arm. He seems exhausted, and collapses into a chair. Then he says that Forest is "thickening," though Matty can't understand what this means. Leader says he doesn't understand it... (full context)
Selfishness vs. the Collective Good Theme Icon
Youth, Memory, and the Future Theme Icon
Identity and Difference Theme Icon
...assures him that she will. Leader explains that he's going to try to look beyond Forest again. Matty sits down with Frolic and watches as Leader's body tenses like he's in... (full context)
Selfishness vs. the Collective Good Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
...gift to save Ramon, but knows that he wouldn't be able to make it through Forest weakened from the effort. He also remembers Leader's advice to not use his gift. Jean... (full context)
Chapter Twelve
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
...of Matty's food is gone. Matty isn't concerned; he knows how to find food in Forest. The journey is longer than normal, however, since Matty has to backtrack and go off... (full context)
Selfishness vs. the Collective Good Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
Identity and Difference Theme Icon
Matty begins to understand what Leader meant when he said that Forest was thickening. While Forest has always been familiar and welcoming to Matty, it now seems... (full context)
Chapter Thirteen
Identity and Difference Theme Icon
...to bathe and showed him he could be better. Matty spent his time wandering through Forest and once, found his way to Village and to Seer. He led Seer back to... (full context)
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
In the present, Matty tumbles out of Forest and feels almost blinded by the sunlight. Frolic snuffles around Matty as Matty thinks that... (full context)
Chapter Fourteen
Youth, Memory, and the Future Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
Identity and Difference Theme Icon
...her gift. Matty scoots over and looks at the embroidery, which is a landscape of Forest with Village in the distant background. Kira says that sometimes, when she embroiders, the threads... (full context)
Selfishness vs. the Collective Good Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
Identity and Difference Theme Icon
...quickly, as the picture will fade. He sees himself, Frolic, and Kira preparing to enter Forest, while Seer is next to his home in Village. Matty also sees crowds of people,... (full context)
Chapter Fifteen
Selfishness vs. the Collective Good Theme Icon
...forest path between her cottage and the center of the village, she's never been in Forest and has always been a little afraid of it. Matty thinks that the path seems... (full context)
Selfishness vs. the Collective Good Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
Back in Village, Leader tells Seer that Kira and Matty have entered Forest. Seer is relieved that Kira agreed to come, but Leader explains that because of her... (full context)
Chapter Sixteen
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
...stays awake and listens. He hears normal animal sounds and smells the rotting stench of Forest's center. He's surprised to smell it from such a distance. In the morning, Kira bandages... (full context)
Selfishness vs. the Collective Good Theme Icon
...on their way. Leader doesn't say that he saw Kira's bleeding feet and that now, Forest is attacking Matty. He knows that the worst is yet to come. (full context)
Chapter Seventeen
Identity and Difference Theme Icon
...the smell. Matty tries to sound optimistic as he leads Kira into the center of Forest. (full context)
Youth, Memory, and the Future Theme Icon
...gotten to her skin yet. Matty remembers how Ramon described Stocktender, who was entangled by Forest. He wonders if Forest teased and scared Stocktender before killing him. (full context)
Selfishness vs. the Collective Good Theme Icon
Youth, Memory, and the Future Theme Icon
...hands. Kira's hands fly over her embroidery frame. Finally, she says that Leader has entered Forest and is coming to help them. Matty says that Leader can see beyond; he'll know... (full context)
Chapter Eighteen
Selfishness vs. the Collective Good Theme Icon
Identity and Difference Theme Icon
...prepared to leave and told Seer to keep it a secret that he's going into Forest to save them. He said that he's afraid that if Mentor and the others building... (full context)
Chapter Nineteen
Selfishness vs. the Collective Good Theme Icon
Youth, Memory, and the Future Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
Two days into Forest, Leader feels the attacks. He realizes that they probably started earlier, but he brushed them... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-One
Selfishness vs. the Collective Good Theme Icon
Youth, Memory, and the Future Theme Icon
Humans and Nature Theme Icon
...languages, but he sees that they all understand each other. He also understands now that Forest itself is an illusion: it was a reflection of fear, lies, and power grabs, but... (full context)