The Hoosier Schoolmaster

by Edward Eggleston

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What early incidents helped Ralph to gain the respect of Bud and Bill Means?

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Edward Eggleston's The Hoosier Schoolmaster tells the story of Ralph Hartsook, a transplant to Flat Creek, Indiana, looking for a job at the local school. Upon his arrival, Ralph rents a room in the home of a school trustee, whom he hopes will assist in procuring the position. Bud and Bill Means are the sons of said trustee, and Ralph is certain that winning their favor will help him to secure the job.

The night of his interview, Bud and Bill take Ralph coon hunting in the woods. Ralph, unaware of the dangers of raccoons, confidently attempts to pull one out of a tree. A scuffle ensues, out of which Ralph comes only slightly injured. He remarks that the task is "not in vain," since he curries favor with Bud.

The next day, rain keeps the family inside, where they gather around the fire. Ralph tells them the stories of books he has read, and the family is entranced. They own only one book and have been unaware of the many stories Ralph can tell. Bill remarks that listening to Ralph's stories is more fun than anything he's done and that he'd choose it any day.

In a town where schoolmasters are seen as mean and hard, Ralph wants the students to be surprised by how helpful he is. Bud asks Ralph how he plans to deal with all of the bad kids at the school, and Ralph responds that he'll simply befriend Bud so he can take care of those kids for him. Later, Bud is impressed by Ralph's performance at the spelling bee.

The final moment of bonding for Ralph and the boys centers around Martha. Bud has had feelings for Martha for quite a while and is worried that Ralph is interested in her as well. In reality, Ralph has feelings for Hannah but isn't sure if it is appropriate to pursue her. He believes Hannah to be bound to Bud. Once they have discussed their issue, Ralph reveals that he has been avoiding Hannah, not because he was afraid of Bud, but because he respects him and didn't want to take his girl. Bud is offended that Ralph thought he was interested in Hannah, and he storms off. The next day, however, Bud approaches Ralph and thanks him for respecting his feelings for Hannah, even though they weren't real. Bud admits he probably wouldn't have been as nice.

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