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My Brother Sam is Dead

Christopher Collier & James Lincoln Collier

Chapters Two–Three

Chapter One

Chapters Four–Five

Summary

Chapter Two

Tim explains the religious background of the town of Redding. People built their houses according to the church they attended, either Anglican or Presbyterian. Tim's family lives in Redding Ridge, which signals that they are Anglicans and therefore loyalist. Tim does not feel he is particularly tied to the loyalist or Rebels, which worries him. Tim goes to church and sits in the balcony, hoping to escape thoughts about Sam, but as soon as he arrives his friend Jerry Sanford mentions Sam. Then Mr. Beach, the preacher, gives a sermon on Sam's departure to fight.

After church, Tom Warrups, an Indian who lives nearby, confides to Tim that Sam is currently staying in his hut. Tim makes up an excuse to his father and darts away to speak with Sam. He finds Sam sitting inside the teepee, holding hands with Betsy Read, his girlfriend and the granddaughter of Colonel Read, a prominent local Patriot. Tim hesitantly reasons with Sam, telling him of Father's tears in hopes that Sam will give up the war and go back to college. Sam is silent for a moment but still steadfast in his decision. Betsy Read asks Tim whose side he is on, a question that Tim evades by saying he does not fully understand either side. Sam speaks again of principles and the Patriot spirit rising in the cities outside of Redding, and says, "You should be willing to die for your principles." Betsy agrees and says she would fight on Sam's side, given the chance. Sam and Betsy try to persuade Tim to eavesdrop on conversations in the tavern to help the Rebel cause. Tim is uncomfortable with this request and says he must go. He his father's Brown Bess gun and he pleads with Sam to return it. Betsy asks Tim if he wants Sam to get killed. Sam asks Tim not to tell, and Tim promises not to. He begins to cry and departs for home.

Chapter Three

Tim speaks of the effects of the war on his home life. He had thought the war would bring battles and great change to his quiet Connecticut village, but it has not. There are no marching armies, no cannons, no food shortages. There is just lots of talk about the war, as there always was. Occasional the arguments get heated, as when Father throws a man out of the tavern for subversion, by which he means criticism of the British army. Betsy often stops by to listen to conversations, but Tim's mother always shoos her along.

Once Betsy pulls Tim aside and asks if he would tell his parents if Sam returned to Redding. Tim says that he would not, and then he waits for a signal from Betsy that Sam has returned. One month after another passes, but no word of Sam comes. Tim works hard during this time and becomes very strong in arithmetic, all the while waiting for Sam to return so that he can impress him with his new skills and hard work. Finally, one November day, Betsy comes to the tavern and nods furtively to Tim, who knows this means that Sam has returned.

Analysis

In the second chapter, we see how Tim is a product of his age and upbringing. When he sits in the balcony for church, he explains without question or judgment that the balcony is where the children, Indians, and black people sit. He does not give much thought to this, an unconcern that is realistic, for in Revolutionary times, racism was considered normal and acceptable. Tim is a well- behaved child, and does as he is told. He believes in God and keeps Sam's secrets in accordance with what he has been instructed to do.

Tim understands what he is supposed to believe and do, but he does not always understand why he is supposed to believe and do certain things. Tim says he knows God can punish sinners if he wants to, and he hope God does not decide to punish Sam. In conversation with Sam inside the teepee, Tim expresses his lingering anxiety about not taking a side about the war. Even though both Betsy and Sam voice Rebel propaganda, Tim feels skeptical about Sam's easy acceptance of the war and miserable at feeling compelled to side either with his brother or his father.

The war starts to become a more tangible threat in Chapter Three. Tim begins frequently employing the phrase, "Oh, I don't mean that," because he feels mixed, confused sentiments about the war. Tim is unwilling to spout maxims or generalities, because he does not believe in any stance wholeheartedly. His caution makes us believe in him as a credible, honest narrator. Tim starts to contrast with Sam, who races to uphold his beliefs and positions and knows exactly what he believes.

While Tim waits for Sam's return, his desire to win Sam's approval never wanes. Tim misses Sam and his boasts and stories, and he wants to boast in return of his "finally being able to throw a stone clear over the tavern…and about being best in school in arithmetic." Some of the most prominent thoughts in Tim's mind concern small ways to please and impress his older brother. Even with Sam away at war, Tim never entirely sheds his role as the younger brother. We also see Betsy's involvement in the rebel cause in the third chapter. Although as a woman, Betsy is not permitted to fight or help in any way, she is determined to help Sam nonetheless, and constantly attempts to eavesdrop at the tavern for any news that could help Sam.

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