Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 256
The Thread That Runs So True, first published in 1949, is the autobiographical account of Jesse Stuart, who receives charge of his own classroom at age 16 in rural Kentucky. His classroom is comprised of students whose ages range from elementary age to older than Jesse himself. The community is a farming town, and education is viewed as an occasional respite from farming, rather than a priority. Stuart devotes his book to "teachers in America."
In addition to Jesse himself, the main characters include Guy Harkins--his top student who himself becomes a teacher. Other students include Don Conway--a big, strong student who is 20 years old while Jesse is only 16. Don respects Jesse, though he was hard-pressed to return to school. Jesse wins him over by explaining that a basic education will help him with a farming business. Ova Salyers is another mature and physically imposing student. Ova and Guy surreptitiously chew tobacco during school, which prompts a reluctant Jesse to get in a physical fight with Guy. Ultimately, Guy and Jesse reconcile, and Guy and the other students continue to respect him as their teacher and mentor.
May Woods is a teacher alongside Jesse. The two plan to go on a date, evoking the ire of her boyfriend, Bill Coffee. Once the students learn of Jesse's interest in May, they mock him during school. Jesse laments his inability to court May owing to the paltry teacher's salary he receives, and remarks on the irony that Bill Coffee, a welder, makes much more money with only a third-grade education.
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