The Learning Tree is written in the third person, but the tale is related primarily through the eyes of Newt Winger. It is Newt’s life that readers experience, and it is through Newt that the world of Cherokee Flats comes alive. Gordon Parks, a famous photographer, has the literary ability to allow readers to “see” that world through his words. Newt is both typical and atypical. With his young friends Beansie, Jappy, Skunk, and Earl, he loves to hike, to hunt, to swim, and even to steal fruit from a local farmer’s peach trees.
Newt is more reflective than any of the other characters. Possibly this is because it is Newt’s story, told mainly through his experiences. Hunting, swimming, and even stealing peaches were part of many boys’ experiences in the small towns of early twentieth century America, but other aspects of Newt’s character are unique. One of his ambitions is to go to college, an unusual goal for an African American in the 1920’s. Chosen to make the graduation speech at his all-black grade school, Newt asserts that “We are proud to be black. . . . Our class does not expect life to be easy. We only expect it to be better, and we are determined to help make it so by contributing something to it ourselves.” It is not easy to be an African American in Cherokee Flats. Once, while Newt is selling brooms door to door with his blind uncle, who populates his unseen world with people of all different colors, a white boy...
(The entire section is 572 words.)