Split Cherry Tree

by Jesse Stuart

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Discussion Topic

Dave's internal conflict and emotions when his worlds collide in "The Split Cherry Tree"

Summary:

In "The Split Cherry Tree," Dave experiences internal conflict and emotions when his rural upbringing clashes with the modern education he receives. He feels torn between his father's traditional values and the new ideas he learns at school. This collision of worlds causes Dave to struggle with loyalty, respect, and his own identity as he attempts to reconcile these differing influences.

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What is Dave's conflict in "The Split Cherry Tree"?

Dave's conflict is with his father. After Professor Herbert punishes the boys who have split the cherry tree in Eif Crabtree's orchard, Dave is worried about how he will explain what has happened to his Pa.

When Professor Herbert has the boys pay for the tree that has been damaged, Dave does not have the money, so he asks his teacher to just whip him with a switch and let him go home early so he can do his chores on the farm. But, Professor Herbert tells Dave that he is too big to whip. As explanation, Dave replies that his father "makes us mind until we are twenty-one years old" and this includes whippings. As he sweeps the school room floor, Dave worries about what his father will do to him when he comes home. He tries to think of what lie he can tell.
Then, after Dave arrives home after seven o'clock, his father asks, "What in the world has kept you so?" Dave tells the truth, but Pa wonders; therefore, he declares that he will visit Professor Herbert.

When Pa visits the school, his preconceptions of what Professor Herbert and the methods of teaching are like are soon dispelled as Herbert takes Luster Sexton around the school, demonstrating various things to him. But, Professor Herbert also learns from Mr. Sexton, and a mutual respect between the two men is established. Finally, Pa helps Dave sweep; as he does so, he tells Dave that Professor Herbert is "a good man" and he adds,

"...School has changed from my day and time. I'm a dead leaf, Dave. I'm behind....I'll get a broom and we'll both sweep an hour. That pays your debt."

Dave's conflict is resolved as his father comes to understand Professor Herbert and his reason for having Dave stay after school. Pa helps Dave sweep and restores Dave's and his relationship as father and son.  

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What are Dave's feelings and concerns when his worlds collide in "Split Cherry Tree"?

(eNotes educators may only answer one question per post. If you need more help, resubmit further questions separately.)

Dave does, indeed, feel as though he lives in two worlds. The world of his family, as personified by Pa, is poor, filled with hard physical labor, and includes minimal formal education. Dave's other world, based at the school and led by Professor Herbert, is filled with ideas and approaches to life and learning that are completely different from anything Pa experienced.

When Pa goes to the school with Dave to confront Professor Herbert, Dave was afraid to think about what might happen. "It was hard to tell what he would do. I could tell Pa that school had changed in the hills from the way it was when he was a boy, but he wouldn't understand." Dave feared Pa might shoot Professor Herbert, and Dave was afraid Pa would embarrass himself and Dave, too. On the other hand, Dave realized that

Professor Herbert really didn't know how much work I had to do at home...He had never lived in the hills. He didn't know the way the hill boys had to work so that they could go to school.

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