Because his grandfather was a sheriff and now his father is the sheriff, the family name is connected with power. In addition, the Haydens are – at least by the standards of the region and the people of the time – wealthy. David comes to realize that this combination means that he has a level of respect and awe from the people of the town though he’s done nothing personally to earn or command it.
The maturing part of this realization comes when David suddenly becomes aware that the scandal of his uncle’s arrest will likely carry a very different kind of weight and that he will be the recipient of that as well, though he had nothing to do with his uncle’s deeds.
Another important lesson that helps David mature is the fact that the family is broken apart from the moment Wesley confronts Frank’s crimes. David initially believes that if Frank were gone, the problem would also be gone. He seems to consider shooting Frank as a way of accomplishing this, but doesn’t go through with it.
However, when Frank commits suicide, David fully believes that the family will grieve for his death and then the relationships will return to normal. At the funeral, it’s obvious that this isn’t to be the case and David matures as he looks more deeply into the people and personalities involved.
His idea of punishment is obviously focused around the United States legal system. David, however, cannot believe in that system after his experience with the arrest of his uncle, Frank Hayden. David suddenly learns that summer that justice carries a price and he expresses his dislike for the system by avoiding a career related to law.
For Julian Hayden, the ideal of justice is that his way is always right. Julian is a hard man who is anxious to keep everything and everyone under his control. This is evident when he refuses to believe that Frank should have been jailed for assault. The lack of justice for the Indians of the area is obviously a common situation as none of them were willing to come forward of their own accord with their accusations against Frank.
A major example of this theme can be seen in the fact that there were many victims, Frank has sexually assaulted but none of them came forward until Wesley begins working on the case. The victims, all Indians, are likely reluctant to make an accusation because the natural prejudice of the region means they probably won’t be believed.
Another example is seen in the fact that David recounts statements from his grandfather that indicate the adults of the family were aware that Frank had engaged in sex with several Indian girls, and that the objection seemed to be the fact that the young women were Indian.
To a lesser degree, David points out prejudice seen in the young man who could easily have been recruited by a college sports program but was looked over because of his Indian heritage. He also talks of Ollie Young Bear who had gone to college, married a white woman and worked hard. This man is touted as what Indians could become if they worked hard enough. While it may be true that Ollie had gained a better life than many of his counterparts, David says that he’s constantly frowning, seems to treat everything as work and never remembers Ollie laughing at anything.