Split Cherry Tree by Jesse Stuart

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How can I compare Luster Sexton and Professor Herbert in Split Cherry Tree? Comparing the characters' behavior, deeds, and the way their look is described in the story.

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Blaze Bergstrom eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Both men are initially presented as similar in that both serve as mentors to Dave and both are convinced of the correctness of their position and ignorant of the valid reasons for taking another stance. Because advancing his education is important to Dave, he does not stand up to Professor Herbert and so he lets his father down. However, when his father comes to school and sees for himself some of the things Dave is learning, both he and the teacher eventually recognize important points about the others’ position. As befits their different professions, the professor wears a suit, while the father wears overalls.

Professor Herbert wants the students to broaden their horizons and he believes that he is relating to their environment through field trips. He sees nature as an object of study rather than as a means of providing livelihood. While he promotes the class and laboratory settings as the primary locations of learning, he also wants the students to see where the material comes from that they study in school. Luster Sexton, in contrast, is a farmer who evaluates each aspect of the environment in terms of its productive capacity. This extends to his understanding of the value of a dollar, in terms of exactly how much work it takes for him and his family to earn one. He sees the professor as not just clueless but discriminating against the poor by making his son work. He also belies that school is what you learn in the classroom, and objects to the teacher doing what he sees as wasting time on field trips.

When the two men meet, the differences are obvious but it is clear that they both place a high value on Dave’s welfare. Prof. Herbert is able to show Luster the relationship between practical and book-learning, and he begins to understand the financial situation that farmers face.

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stolperia eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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To compare two items or individuals usually means to show ways in which the two things are similar and how they are different.

Professor Herbert is well-educated in terms of formalized learning coming from schools and experiences in the academic world; Luther Sexton has extensive practical knowledge of the natural world but no formal background education and, at first, very little patience for those who place much importance on "bug larnin'."

The professor's appearance and speech patterns reflect a culture and personal lifestyle that is very different from Luther's way of life and attitudes. The Professor "wore a grey suit of clothes" while Luther "wore overalls, big boots, a blue shirt, and a sheepskin coat and a slouched black hat gone to seed at the top."

By the end of the story, however, both characters have shown their flexibility and willingness to learn from outside experiences. Professor Herbert will approach students coming from the "hills" differently as a result of his encounter with Luster, and Luster has gained an appreciation for the changed type of learning that Dave is receiving.

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