>Lena wants nothing more than her father’s love. She tries to get it by winning a scripture recitation contest. She tries to get it by giving up her daily schooling to help provide for her family. She doesn’t, until the end, realize that she’s had it all along. With his love, Lena’s father tries to shield her from the injustices the come with being a sharecropper in a predominantly white town. It is through one of Lena’s “friends,” another boy at school, that she learns this lesson.
The most important sentiment from the novel is this:
I want something for you, Lena. For all my children. And I hope I’m not wrong because it’s going to cost you pain, but I want it for you just the same. I want you not to know your place. You have a right to an education and hope and the chance to use your gifts. I pray to God you won’t ever have to live your life by someone else’s rules. (89)
This isn’t one I would have chosen for myself, I don’t think. It was recommended, for that particular passage, by my school librarian.
Sebestyen, Ouida. Words by Heart. New York: Bantam Doubleday Doll Books for Young Readers, 1979.