Dignity and Integrity

“Scholars read the great words of the world. But you and I must learn to read the world itself.” (Park, 7)

 

The theme of A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park is the integrity of the person. Winner of the John Newberry Award, the book is about living under the bridge, with ragged clothes, and merely enough to eat, Tree-ear and his friend Crane-man live with and follow Crane-man’s faith and ethical beliefs. They will spend and enjoy what they worked hard for, and will not take any unearned gains.

 

When Tree-ear came back under the bridge with a bag of rice, the most precious food that the two friends could ever get, Crane-man was gratified, but also puzzled with Tree-ear’s good fortune. Tree-ear told Crane-man the unusual story: It all began in the early morning when Tree-ear met a man carrying a heavy load on a jiggeh, a “framed backpack made of branches” (Park 4), but the rice was leaking, forming a marked white-dotted path. Tree-ear followed, but his conscience was shaking. He helped the man repair the jiggeh. Surprisingly, Tree-ear is free to take the rice on the ground. Good deserves good. Tree-ear’s unselfishness deserved the bag of rice. “Foraging in the woods and rubbish heaps, gathering fallen grain-heads in the autumn-these were honourable ways to garner a meal, requiring time and work. But stealing and begging, Crane-man said, made a man no better than a dog.” (Park, 5)

 

When Tree-ear saw his master Min’s rival Kang with his tremendous design, he didn’t choose to help and tell Min Kang’s secret, but instead he kept it to himself. “If a man is keeping an idea to himself, and that idea is taken by stealth or trickery-I say it is stealing. But once a man has revealed his idea to others, it is no longer his alone. It belongs to the world” (Park, 64) Stealing didn’t only include stealing items and objects, but also included the stealing of a thought, an idea. Although Tree-ear was desperate to help Min to win the emissary’s appreciation. But telling Min meant letting him steal Kang’s innovation. And theft was the worse a man could do. Therefore, Tree-ear cannot risk his beliefs and moral sense and tell Kang’s pottery idea.

 

The main character in this book, Tree-ear’s friend, Crane-man is not a scholar, but he is as wise as one. This connects to our society because it is a present situation that many people who did not even go to school have very good thoughts. Many talented people who are in bad conditions was unable to receive education, and couldn’t prove their intelligence to the society. If Crane-man’s thoughts were told to his society, his philosophical theories would be wide-spread.

 

Tree-ear’s noble actions earned him great accomplishments. After helping to deliver Min’s vase to the royal emissary, Tree-ear was finally earned Min’s acceptance and had the chance to be Min’s apprentice. Tree-ear’s dignity made him a person with integrity.

Once upon a time, there was a small village

“One hill, one valley. One day at a time” (Park, back cover).

Winner of John Newbery Medal, the setting of A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park illustrates a wonderful picture of Tree-ears village, Ch’ulp’o and takes us on a time-traveling adventure to a village in Korea in the middle ages. Set in a small village on the west coast of Korea during the late 12th century, everyone greeted each other with warmth. “The well-fed of the village greeted each other politely…” (Park, 3). The famous potters in the small village live in tranquility with each other, helping and taking turns to cut wood for the kiln. The village is full of resources, with edible wild mushrooms and vegetables for the poor to consume as well. As a poor, the main character in the story, Tree-ear was adopted by his friend, Crane-man, and they have been sleeping, eating, living together under the space under the bridge ever since they met. Although small and damp, the space has been a warming home for the two. “Tree-ear shared the space under the bridge with Crane-man” (Park, 7). Before the Royal emissary arrived the village, life has been simple and unpretentious for all villagers. Then, until one day when the competition arrived, Tree-ear requested himself to help Min send a pot in the capital of Korea, Songdo, he must overcome different challenges during his journey, especially in the city, Puyo, that he will have to pass by. Robbers, dangerous animals are both threats to Tree-ear. The places in A Single Shard helped the story develop in a unique way. On my book cover shows a Korean village in the 12th century, with beautiful sceneries and simple houses. Mist surrounds the place at the crack of dawn, hills and mountains far away in the background and gives us a clearer scenery of where the story takes place.