A Single Shard

by Linda Sue Park

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Student Question

In Chapter One of A Single Shard, why did Tree-ear feel like he was stealing?

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In Chapter One, Tree-ear meets a farmer as he rummages among the village's rubbish heaps for scraps of food. The farmer is carrying a wooden-straw container in a jiggeh filled with rice. A jiggeh is an open-framed backpack fashioned from branches.

As the farmer walks along, rice trickles out from a small hole in the straw box. Tree-ear watches him with abiding interest but great ambivalence. His conscience tells him that he should alert the farmer to his problem. At the same time, if he refrains from speaking, the fallen rice kernels will be his once the farmer rounds the bend. In the end, Tree-ear's conscience wins, and he runs to alert the farmer. The farmer is extremely grateful for Tree-ear's honesty, and he tells Tree-ear that he can harvest the rice kernels on the ground if he can be bothered to pick them up.

Later, Tree-ear relates his story to Crane-man. He wants to know whether he is a thief for waiting until the farmer dropped a substantial amount of rice before alerting him. Crane-man is philosophical in his answer. He asks Tree-ear what the farmer would think if he knew the truth. In response, Tree-ear answers that the friendly farmer would not have minded and that he would have laughed upon discovering the truth.

So, because of Tree-ear's conscientious nature, he felt as if he was stealing. Additionally, Crane-man had always taught him that "work gives a man dignity, stealing takes it away." Later, we see more evidence of Tree-ear's conscientious nature when he offers to work for Min to make up for accidentally breaking a clay piece.

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