Asa Earl Carter, under the Pseudonym Forrest Carter, is the author of The Education of The Little Tree which was published in 1976. He was born in Alabama on September 4, 1925 and is the eldest in a family of four siblings. He was once a Navy troop for the United States and helped write speeches for Governor George Wallace. He is remembered for the infamous words “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” that he wrote for Wallace. Carter was also a radio broadcaster and a political writer.
Sometimes during the democratic primaries in of 1970, he ran against Governor George Wallace and lost. He then disappeared from Alabama after calling it quits in politics and decided to refer to himself by a new name, Bedford Forrest Carter, a name which he borrowed from an unlettered general known as Nathan Bedford Forrest. After moving away from Alabama, Carter became anonymous due to his reemergence with a new identity. However, after his death, it dawn on people that the Forrest Carter they new had been a living hoax.
Other works belonging, to Carter include Gone to Texas of 1973 and The Vengeance Trial of Josey in 1976. Surprisingly, The Education of Little Tree novel has been a matter of controversy as many thought that it was an autobiography only to realize that its authenticity was wanting. Moreover, the fact that he was involved with the Ku Klux Klan has discredited him from a majority of his audience. The novel is made up of 216 pages and 21 chapters.
Little Tree, a 5-year-old boy, is taken in the custody of his grandparents after the demise of his parents. This was after his relatives were wondering who would adopt him. According to Carter & Strickland (2001 p1), “The Kinfolks had raised some mortal fuss about it, according to Grandma, after the funeral”. His grandparents dwelt in a cabin located in the Mountains of Tennessee where she was assimilated into the culture and lifestyle of the Cherokee. This included activities like Farming, whiskey production, nature, mountain living and love.
It is in this countryside life that his grandparents gave the name Little Tree. Lessons learnt by Little Tree came from both his grandparents and others personalities in the society like Christians, politicians and slickers. For instance, Mr. Wine educates him on the benefits of studying thriftiness and mathematics when he says, “He said if you were thrifty, you used your money for what you ought but you was not loose with it… He said education was a two-part proposition. One part was technical, which was how you moved ahead in your trade…the other part you had better stick to and not change it. He called it valuing. Mr. Wine said if you learnt to place a value on being honest and thrifty, on doing your best, and on caring for folks; this was more important than anything. He said if you was not taught these values, then no matter how modem you got about the technical part, you was not going anywheres atall.”(Carter & Strickland 168). His life in this seemingly paradise would be later cut short when he was forcibly taken to a boarding school by the government. In boarding school, he tasted the life of a prejudiced system and was rescued by an American native who was a friend of his grand parents, Willow John. This novel ends dramatically with the demise of Willow John and Grandpa through a natural death. His Grandma on the other hand commits suicide after the demise of Grandpa. Therefore, Little Tree has no option but to leave in order to go and fend for him by working in several farms.
Themes and Styles
Throughout this novel, Carter uses various styles and themes that spice up this moving masterpiece. A notable theme is the connection existing between the future and the past. Little Tree sees the need to obtain this information while Grandma and Grandpa rise to the occasion and pass down their history to Little Tree at the same time telling him about the natives of Cherokee.
Further, the theme of familial bond' stands out especially around the family circle of Little Tree. The storytelling habit which is used to pass wisdom and lessons endears Little Tree to his grandparents. At the onset of the story, we notice that as other relatives argue on where he would go, Little Tree’s grandparents are more than willing to accommodate him. All in the family engage in activities like farming and whiskey making together; during decision and discussions, Little Tree is involved.
Dialogue as a style has been utilized by Carter to bring to help the reader discern the background of the characters. It is evident that Little Tree’s grandparents are uneducated from their informal dialogue. Grandpa bickers at the superfluous nature of words that exist in the world. We can also deduce that the grandparents keep a simple view of the world they live in.
In addition, Carter used a first person narration of the story. Nature as it exists in the novel is brought to life through a vivid description which involves the reader in the whole story and thus making the reader to own it. Narration helps one to understand the change of behavior exhibited by Little Tree from his stance against nature to his love of nature.
This novel is marred in controversy as to its authenticity. Therefore, it does not give a true picture of a typical Cherokee lifestyle; it is more of a fiction than an autobiography as Carter intended it to be.