Why does Dave feel hopeful as he walks into the schoolhouse with Pa in "Split Cherry Tree"?

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Dave's father is a formidable and menacing presence anywhere he goes. He brings a gun with him to meet with Dave's professor and mentions multiple times that guns kill teachers and rich men just as quickly as any other type of people.

Yet Dave must know that his father isn't...

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Dave's father is a formidable and menacing presence anywhere he goes. He brings a gun with him to meet with Dave's professor and mentions multiple times that guns kill teachers and rich men just as quickly as any other type of people.

Yet Dave must know that his father isn't all bad. We learn in the end of the story that he doesn't want the professor to kill a black snake, and he also never hits his mules or cattle.

Perhaps this is why Dave suddenly glimpses hope as he enters the school with his father that morning. Dave's father has a fondness for animals, and he also knows that his professor is a "good man." He hopes that his father will recognize this. Dave's professor has opened his eyes to a world he never knew about, one that includes various branches of biology. The professor is truly passionate about helping his students advance in knowledge and move society forward.

Dave assesses this potential correctly. Even though his father brings out his gun to initiate the conversation, feeling that his son has not received fair treatment because of his poverty, the professor is mostly unfazed. He uses their meeting as an opportunity to get Dave's father excited about biology, too. It works. Luster becomes fascinated when he is able to see "germs" for the first time.

Dave is hopeful because his father is a brusque man, but he simultaneously has potential for softness. He also recognizes the ability of his teacher to show his father the same wonders of education that Dave has already experienced.

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