Themes and Characters
What is the relationship of man to nature? Are the two one and the same, or is man separate from nature, an observer, a consumer? The Education of Little Tree follows the character of a young boy, Little Tree, as he seeks personal answers to these questions. Through Little Tree's experiences and observations, the reader gains an appreciation for the indelible beauty of the earth—the soil, the leaves, the individuality of the bark upon the trees. Through this tactile understanding of the vitality of nature, and man's indebtedness to the fertility of the earth, the reader witnesses the possibilities of how man might live with nature— not as an observer but in partnership with the living land. There are no hard and fast lessons in the novel, yet an overall examination of the way humans live subtly emerges from Little Tree's informal education from his Cherokee grandparents.
Portraying the world through the eyes of a child allows Carter to shift the perspective away from the drudgery of adult life—bills, tending to the home, feeding the children— and focus on an exploration of the environment without ingrained expectations. Carter begins the novel with the death of Little Tree's parents. While Little Tree's relatives "raised some mortal fuss" about what should be done with him, he latched onto his Granpa's leg, and thus his grandparents ended up taking him home with them. Home is a log cabin with a wide hall running through it, and it is here,...
(The entire section is 1159 words.)
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