Split Cherry Tree

by Jesse Stuart

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Pa describes himself as "a dead leaf" in "Split Cherry Tree." What does he mean?

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Pa makes these remarks towards the end of the story after Professor Herbert's taken him on a guided tour of the school and shown him what modern education is all about. Once incredibly hostile to learning and ready to give Professor Herbert a piece of his mind for keeping his son Dave back as punishment, Pa has now thankfully seen the light. At long last, he now understands the value of education. At the end of the story, he orders Dave to do whatever the Professor tells him.

In a moment of epiphany Pa realizes that he's out of step with the modern world when it comes to education. He openly admits that school has changed a lot since his day. He opts to stay behind at school with Dave to help him with his chore—sweeping leaves—that Dave has to perform by way of punishment for breaking a cherry tree.

Just before he gets started with the broom, Pa describes himself as a dead leaf. What he means by this is that he doesn't belong in a modern school environment. Just as a dead leaf no longer belongs to the tree from which it's fallen, Pa doesn't belong in a modern world, with its smart laboratories and new-fangled notions of education.

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