In Edward Eggleston's novel The Hoosier Schoolmaster: A Story of Backwoods Life in Indiana, the community of Flat Creek is not depicted as being very sophisticated in its attitudes to education. The one principle of which everyone is certain, however, is that there must be a spelling school in Flat Creek. Eggleston says that spelling is the only aspect of education taken seriously by everyone in a backwoods school. Quite often, the pupils could not define any of the words used in a lesson. However, the author observes,
This is of no consequence. What do you want to know the meaning of a word for? Words were made to be spelled, and men were probably created that they might spell them. Hence the necessity for sending a pupil through the spelling-book five times before you allow him to begin to read, or indeed to do anything else.
The ambition of the most studious children is to excel in the long spelling classes held every day at school and ideally to win the spelling match, which takes up the whole of Friday afternoon. While such accomplishments confer prestige on a few, even those who have no spelling ability at all are nonetheless attached to the institution of competitive spelling. They regard this as an opportunity for socializing and as a replacement for sporting contests, since the author says there are no baseball or croquet matches in the community. Spelling is therefore integral to both the educational and the social life of Flat Creek, and Ralph, the new schoolmaster, has to devote much of his time and energy to it.