I have begun reading Ellen Glasgow's novel about reconstruction called The Voice of the People. Set in fictional Kingsborough, Virginia (based on Williamsburg), it begins with the story of a boy of about 11 named Nicholas Burr who is determined not to follow in the footsteps of his peanut farmer father. Nicholas catches the eye of Judge Bassett, who offers Nicholas the opportunity to study with his son's tutor.
Nicholas is a remarkable boy, going to extraordinary lengths to achieve his goal. He borrows a book from Judge Bassett, committing to memory passages from the book which are incomprehensible to him, believing that one day he will know what those long words mean and will be able to understand the passages he is memorizing. It is not difficult to understand the judge's interest in this boy.