The Thread That Runs So True Analysis
by Jesse Stuart

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The Thread That Runs So True Analysis

The Thread that Runs So True, by Jesse Stuart, is a personal account of his experience teaching and working as a school administrator in the mountains of Kentucky. The book highlights Stuart's passion for teaching and his commitment the profession. It also highlights the challenges Stuart faced as he rose in his career. Stuart dealt with inadequacies in the system and faced difficulties with parents and students. Nevertheless, he had a passion for knowledge and a firm belief in his goals. Thus, a major theme that runs through the story is the power of teaching. Most importantly, Stuart knew it was important that teachers believe in the power of teaching. Stuart persevered and overcame obstacles because he knew education was important, that good teachers were important, and that teachers have the power to instill in generations of people, not only knowledge, but a lifetime love for learning.

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Another theme in the book is the current crisis in education, a crisis Stuart attributes largely to the exploitation of teachers. He explains that teachers are overworked and underpaid, which discourages good teachers from entering the profession. Also, by relating his experiences in Kentucky, he highlights the crisis in providing adequate eduction to children in rural areas.

Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In The Thread That Runs So True, Jesse Stuart tells the story of his life as an educator in six parts, each episode treating a stage in his career. At the age of seventeen, after only three years of high school, Stuart began his teaching career in a one-room rural school. His students ranged widely in age and ability. Among several colorful stories, his most notable is an account of a fistfight between Stuart and his massive, twenty-year-old first-grade pupil. By the end of the school year, Stuart had evolved a rudimentary philosophy of education: The natural work of children is play, from which they learn, and the teacher should foster interest and learning by organizing competitive academic games.

Five years after this early initiation into teaching, after completing college himself, Stuart became the principal and the entire faculty for fourteen bright and well-motivated young people in a landlocked rural high school, teaching all subjects. In this idyllic setting, Stuart found that work and play can indeed be combined, as his tiny band of scholars defeated the much larger county high school in academic contests. Stuart’s success led to his next challenge: the position of principal at the county school that his students had defeated. Stuart found that, in addition to his duties as principal, he had to teach a full load of classes for the same low salary that his teachers earned. At the end of a successful year as principal, he was denied reappointment because he had requested a modest increase in salary.

Discouraged and resolved to retire from education, Stuart was nevertheless unable to resist his next challenge: to become superintendent of the county school system at the age of twenty-four. Stuart restored fiscal integrity to the bankrupt system, but he antagonized many of his constituents and ultimately feared for his life from violent elements in the community. He became principal of a high school in another part of the country, away from his enemies. After the publication of his first book of poetry, Man with a Bull-Tongue Plow (1934), Stuart became popular as a lecturer in high schools and colleges and won a Guggenheim Fellowship for a year of travel in Europe.

On his return from Europe, Stuart accepted a position in Ohio, where he taught remedial students in English. At the same time, having witnessed the rise of totalitarianism in Europe and having been alarmed by political corruption in his home county, he published a newspaper exposing the machinations of his opponents. Wishing to marry his childhood sweetheart (and having been assaulted by an opponent with a blackjack), Stuart decided to leave teaching and take up sheep raising and novel writing, as he could not...

(The entire section is 1,679 words.)