“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.