Linda Sue Park’s story “A Single Shard” conveys the message that people should not let something or someone keep them from achieving their dreams. The story also reveals that an apparent obstacle may contain opportunities that are only revealed later.
The story’s protagonist, known by the nickname Tree-ear, is a poor orphan who takes important steps toward becoming a skilled potter along with gaining a new family. Initially, he often fears and resents Min, the master potter for whom he works, because the old man is so strict and demanding. His loyalty to his original companion, Crane-man, and to Min and his wife, is expressed by him helping Min’s business succeed. Tree-ear ultimately realizes how much he learned through his apprenticeship, including the ability to form his own artistic vision.
Soon after seeing the beautiful pots that Min makes, Tree-ear has the dream of making such lovely things. When Min agrees to let him work in the shop, the boy believes that the many tasks he is required to perform are punishment. He perseveres in the challenging environment, gaining respect for the master and the many crucial details of the process. Tree-ear makes a difficult physical and mental journey to help Min fulfill his commission; not even violent thieves can stop him. He learns that he can make valuable contributions to the potter’s art and build the family he was missing.