The Old-Fashioned Man and the Modern Education

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The Split Cherry Tree by Jesse Stuart (1906-1984) is a story set in a remote region of Kentucky. Born and raised in the rural areas of Kentucky, Stuart borrowed heavily from his personal experiences in most of his writing (Goodreads).  In this story Jesse Stuart depicts a conflict between the old fashioned traditional practices with the modern way of doing thing and most importantly the modern education. We see a man’s journey from a point of ignorance to that of being knowledgeable and understanding. Written in the year 1939 (American Literature), the story revolves around the narration by a young man whose father is caught in the old fashioned way of living but later embraces the changes that have taken place in the society and education as well.

Main Discussion

The story begins when six boys from the biology class climb to the top of a Cherry Tree in their field execution. The six are running after a lizard, but end up breaking down the tree. Five of the boys pay their one dollar fine but Dave have to work out his debt. Professor Herbert put in the one dollar for him and demands that he pays back through sweeping the corridors for two hours after school for two days.  This keeps Dave away from home where he should be helping his father in milking the cattle’s among other crucial task. One thing is clear, there is a conflict, in that, the rich can easily get out of trouble since they have money. However, the same cannot be said of the poor man’s child.  In the words of Dave’s father, Mr. Luster “…He ain't got no right to keep you in and let the other boys off jist because they've got th' money! I'm a poor man.” (Classic Shorts)  He is agitated that he had to work on most of the farm work alone.

 David is first of his people to go to high school. We see that Mr. Luster and his wife value education but equally feels that there is need for the young boys to help out with the work. "I'm tryin' to make a scholar out'n Dave. He's the only one out'n eleven youngins I've sent to high school. Here he comes in late and leaves me all th' work to do!” says Mr. Luster (Classic Shorts). Professor Herbert, on the other hand, is not from the hill and he may not understand the importance of the hill boys helping in the farm. Dave is a true indication of a person who has to live in the two worlds. Balancing both roles is important. Dave is even willing to take a lashing instead of taking the punishment just to be home in time to help out with the work.

Not all conflicts are answered through fighting. At first Dave is worried that his dad is going to shoot Professor Herbert. Dave knows that Professor Herbert can take legal actions for a gun in school. He also feel that his Pa wouldn’t understand that the school system has changed over the years. When he went to school all they did learn was reading and writing. However, we see the power of reasoning and communication taking over. Mr. Luster withdraws his gun and he is eager to learn when he meets Professor Herbert. He cannot fathom the idea that the scum on his teeth has germs. At the end of the day we see modernity taking over the old ways.

Mr.  Luster is a transformed man. His old fashioned way of thinking is different at the end. He is adamant that the son must pay off his debt and even goes ahead to help him sweep the floors even after professor insists on cancelling the debt. Most importantly we see a honest person who instills the same in his son. One who appreciates that education is the key to a better life. “…You must go on to school. I am as strong a man as ever come out'n th' hills fer my years and th' hard work I've done. But I'm behind, Dave. I'm a little man. Your hands will be softer than mine. Your clothes will be better. You'll allus look cleaner than your old Pap. Jist remember, Dave, to pay your debts and be honest” Mr. Luster to his son Dave (Classic Shorts).


In conclusion, it is impossible to live in stagnation and one must change with the changing times. However and most importantly is that we stand to learn from both worlds. Even the old fashioned man had lessons for his son about honesty and the need for handwork. The students also changed the negative perception they had about Mr. Luster at the end of the day, appreciating more his wisdom. The most critical part being that education is modern education is necessary and will always win over the old, out fashioned practices.


American Literature. The Split Cherry Tree. n.d. 30 January 2018.

Classic Shorts. Split Cherry Tree. n.d. 30 January 2018. .

Goodreads. Jesee Stuart. n.d. 30 January 2018. .

December 12, 2023




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