Little Tree

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate August 2001

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"Whatever crushes individuality is despotism, by whatever name it may be called." - John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859 Without individuality, one lacks the distinctiveness, originality, and identity that gives him control of his fate. Because of its significance, one must stand for his beliefs and differences, even if it results in defying or challenging an organization, society, or entire government. Recognizing the intangible as an important virtue, Forrest Carter places immense emphasis on the subject of individuality in The Education of Little Tree. Throughout the novel, a Cherokee family and its members demonstrate individualism in a variety of methods. They choose to educate a child by themselves, abide by their own type of religion, and create a self-employed business. At the same time they prefer not to associate with institutions such as government schools, larger organized religions, and corporations. Through this family and their creed, Carter stresses the importance and effects of institutions on individuality.

Throughout Little Tree, Carter recurringly illustrates the significance of individuality and the harm institutions can have on it. Carter achieves this through the use of everyday topics many are accustomed to, including education and religion. For instance, instead of attending a government taught and funded school, Little Tree receives home schooling from his grandparents. They believe that such a school will not emphasize the same morals and way of life that they believe strongly in and provide Little Tree with the love, attention, and flexibility received at home. Therefore, enrolling Little Tree in a school where he is overlooked and forced to accept what he is taught will prevent him from making his own choices and having his own opinions. This is proven when Little Tree is lawfully obligated to live and learn in an orphanage. Here, the reader discovers Little Tree, is...