Critical Context (Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)
Because of Jesse Stuart’s stature as a unique and beloved author, The Thread That Runs So True has an assured place in American literature. What makes this work especially noteworthy is Stuart’s use of it to make his case for public school education. Seldom have professional educators had at their side an author of such repute and, even more important, such wide and verifiable experience in the schools. Stuart has used his material strategically, couching it in writing so enjoyable that students, teachers, parents, administrators, and politicians can see the importance of their role in public education without being alienated by dull or preachy writing. In his selection of events and personalities, Stuart manipulates both his materials and his readers to make his case.
Stuart presented this work at a time when the nation was prepared to deal with the problem of illiteracy. Published in 1949, when the nation was recovering from decades of economic depression and war, The Thread That Runs So True reached a national audience eager to address the issues of education. Accordingly, the book was brought into the classroom by multitudes of teachers and was placed on recommended-reading lists. Students were inspired, teachers encouraged, and general readers informed by this gentle and enjoyable expose. For contemporary readers, The Thread That Runs So True remains a masterful example of the writer’s craft. It captures for all time the essence of the Appalachian heritage and remains an eloquent statement of the value of public education.