In “Split Cherry Tree,” Dave must take responsibility for the broken tree limbs, as both men in positions of authority in his life are fair and honest men who understand the importance of atoning for wrongdoings. However, while Luster, Dave’s father, believes a child should be beaten to make him atone for wrongdoings, Professor Herbert, the school principal, shuns the idea of violence in favor of sound reasoning. He lends Dave the dollar he needs to pay for the tree limbs, and he makes Dave take responsibility for his actions by working to pay off his debt. Professor Herbert believes he acted with fairness, but Dave and his father see it as incredibly unfair—Dave because he knows he will get in trouble at home for not being there to do his chores, and Luster because Professor Herbert's requirement keeps Dave from his responsibilities at home.
The reactions of the two men highlight the clash between old and modern world views. Luster is uneducated, and his action was fueled by ignorance. In his view, things are the way they are, and things should be handled the way they always have been handled—to promote a clear understand that one has done wrong. Professor Herbert, however, believes it is important to articulate the reason for his actions in an effort to teach the boy the importance of fairness. The problem is that Luster is equally concerned with fairness, and equally set in his thinking about it. The different ways Luster and Professor Herbert handle the situation and the conflict that follows shows that they had the same idea of what the boy should learn from the incident but had conflicting views of fairness that were linked to their insular views.