David Bruce: Forrest Carter’s THE EDUCATION OF LITTLE TREE: A Discussion Guide — Chapters 4-6

Chapter 4: Fox and Hounds

What kind of recreation does the family indulge in?

Poor people have fun, too, although some of us may not be aware of that. One benefit of being Indian and of living in the mountains is that you have an appreciation of nature. In addition, despite working hard, you occasionally have time for fun and recreation. One of the things that Granpa does for fun is to send the dogs after a fox. He doesn’t kill the fox; he merely watches the hunt.

What does Granpa think of self-esteem?

Granpa is a good person. He believes that “if a hound or anybody else has got no feeling of worth, then it’s a bad thing” (22). We can agree with Granpa. Self-esteem is important, but it has to be gotten legitimately. You shouldn’t be able to get self-esteem easily; you should actually have to do something to get it. (Our modern culture seems to give praise much too easily, even to mediocrity.) One of Granpa’s hounds has no sense of smell, but does have keen hearing and eyesight, and is able to help guard the corn patch, thus making her (Maud) feel of worth.

The great 19th-century actor Sir Henry Irving understood this principle. He hired a number of old people who needed money to survive but who were incapable of doing much work. In doing this, he was careful not to take their pride away. He told one aged actor to whom he was paying a salary more abundant than was justified by any acting the old man did, “Now, my boy, what I want you to do is veryimportant — humph! — veryimportant. This is a critical moment in the play. You come on — come righton; you see what is happening; you say (to yourself, of course) ‘My God!’ You see? My God!And then — ah — you go slowly off. … Most important.”(Source: Edward Wagenknecht, Merely Players, p. 176.)

Does Granpa have self-esteem?

Yes, he does. He is almost 70 years old, but he does good work. His whiskey (as we will see later) is highly regarded by his neighbors, and his hunting skills are widely admired. Granpa is regarded as a “master woodsman” (23).

What is the name of the fox, and how intelligent is he??

Ol’ Slick is a very intelligent fox. He plays a lot of tricks on the hounds. One thing he does is to step on stones on a creek in an attempt to make the hounds think that he has crossed to the other side. According to Granpa, the fox made sure that his scent was fresh on the stones so that the hounds would be overcome by excitement and let emotions rule their heads. The trick worked with some of the hounds, but not with all. According to Granpa, some human beings also let their emotions rule their heads.

How free are Indian children?

Nowadays we are very careful with our children. We are afraid of strangers. However, Little Tree does have a lot of freedom. He is allowed to stay up all night for the foxhunt. The Cherokee don’t criticize their children for playing in the woods.

Chapter 5: “I Kin Ye, Bonnie Bee”

What do we learn about Granpa’s education in this chapter?

Granma has been reading so many books to Granpa and Little Tree that Granpa is getting some of the people mixed up. For example, he thinks that Alexander the Great lived at the time of the Continental Congress. Therefore, he borrows the Alexander the Great book from the librarian so he can learn more about Alexander the Great (and to find out whether he or Granma is correct about Alexander the Great).

What do we learn about Granpa in the scene in which a lady asks for directions?

There is a cultural difference between Granpa and the lady. The lady asks Granpa for directions, and Granpa follows his manners. The lady, of course, is looking for a quick answer to her question (Which way is Chattanooga?), but Granpa takes his time, asking her how she is and listening to her very carefully. Of course, the lady and the people in the car think Granpa is an ignorant Appalachian. Also, Granpa doesn’t drive, so he doesn’t know the roads and so tells the lady where Chattanooga is as the crow flies.

What do we learn from the story about Uncle Enoch?

Uncle Enoch is a free liver. He goes to Chattanooga and winds up in bed with two women, and a huge man complains that the women are his wife and his sister. (Apparently, Uncle Enoch has been set up; the women want him to pay the man some money.) Instead, Uncle Enoch jumps out of a second-story window, is cut up, winds up in jail, escapes, and walks all the way home. Both Granpa and Little Tree decide that they don’t want to see Chattanooga (which is in Tennessee).

What do Granma and Granpa know about love?

When Granpa (Wales) says “I kin ye” to Granma (Bonnie Bee), he means both “I understand you” and “I love you.” To understand a person is to love that person. These two people understand and love each other.

According to Granpa, the word “kin” has gotten messed up. “Kin” used to mean people whom you understood. Nowadays, the meaning has been restricted to blood relatives, which is too narrow a meaning.

Understanding other people is important in this book. The story about Coon Jack shows that. Coon Jack was a fighter. He fought for the South in the Civil War because he was fighting the union that had harmed the Cherokee nation. He fought all his life. Finally, all he had to take pride in was a key to a box that held a church songbook. He acted important about it, but Granpa’s Pa understood Coon Jack and praised him for taking care of the key.

Chapter 6: To Know the Past

What is the theme of this chapter?

This chapter is about the history of the Cherokee. The white men stole their land from them with a treaty. The treaty was supposed to keep the white men out of the Cherokee land, but in fact the treaty said that the white men had bought the Cherokee land and that the Cherokee would have to move west.

This is a historical fact. The Cherokee are famous for the Trail of Tears. When they were moved from the Carolinas to Oklahoma, they walked, and many, many Cherokee died during the walk. This chapter tells that the Cherokee refused to ride in the wagons provided by the white men, instead preferring to walk, and later, to carry their dead. Of course, some Cherokee hid in the woods and refused to go west.

Granpa and Granma tell Little Tree this so he understands his heritage.

Today the Cherokee nation is divided. A Cherokee reservation is in North Carolina, and a Cherokee reservation is in Oklahoma.

Humorist Will Rogers of Oklahoma was part Cherokee. Another famous Cherokee is Sequoia, who developed a written language for the Cherokee. Although the Indians were illiterate when the white men first landed in America, Sequoia recognized the importance of written language and developed a written language for the Cherokee. Very quickly the Cherokee became literate and started a Cherokee newspaper.

What was Granpa’s Pa like?

Of course, part of a person’s history is the history of his grandparents and other ancestors. Granpa’s Pa (hereafter referred to as Pa) met his wife after discovering that she and her family were hiding in the woods (having refused to join the Trail of Tears). He left them a haunch of deer meat and so met them through the gift.

Pa had been a member of Morgan’s Raiders, traveling through Ohio and other states to make war on the Union. There Pa had been wounded, although in the excitement of the battle, he didn’t realize it. He realized that he had been wounded only after dismounting from his horse and having his leg collapse under him, with his boot filled with blood. Eventually, many years later, a bullet that had been left in his body killed him. His friends attempted to cut the bullet out of him, without anesthesia (but with whiskey), but he died while being held down spread-eagled in the process.

What is Cherokee divorce like?

It is easy to get divorced if you are a Cherokee. When you are married, you have a marriage stick. During your marriage, you cut notches in the stick to remind you of important events that you and your mate share together. If you want to get divorced, you simply break the stick. The marriage stick of Granpa’s parents was never broken.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Brice

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