My Brother Sam is Dead

by: Christopher Collier & James Lincoln Collier

Chapters Six–Seven

After having failed to squeeze an adventure out of Mr. Heron's errand, Tim spends the summer feeling sheepish and uninvolved. The war still does not have much to do with his immediate surroundings, although he knows from the goods shortages and letters from Sam that the war is raging through other parts and other lives. Although Father and Sam conflict more than any other two characters in the novel, Father's responses to Sam's letters reveal how similar the two men are. Both left home at age sixteen, both are extremely stubborn and headstrong, and both deal uncertainly with seeing their own traits in each other.

The trip to Verplancks Point is a surprise adventure to Tim. Sam has always made the trip with Father, and now Tim, filling in as oldest son, has his chance. Father is extremely reluctant to bring Tim with him, which suggests he foresees the dangers that lie ahead. Tim thinks the trip will be a welcome change. When they pass younger children at home, Tim enjoys feeling admired rather than admiring: "It made me feel proud of myself for being a man while they were still children, and I shouted at the oxen and smacked them on their rumps with my stick, just to show off how casual and easy I was with oxen and how used I was to managing them." This scene echoes the moment when Tim admires Sam's familiarity with the Brown Bess. Here, showing off his expertise with the oxen, Tim feels the pleasure of being watched the way he has always watched Sam.

The confrontation with the cow-boys is frightening, most of all because Father refuses to comply with their demands. Tim had been warned of something like this happening, and although he and Father are saved just in time by the escort of Loyalist patrolmen, Tim is frightened by seeing his father helpless against these armed men. Tim is treated like a child and sent to sit in a field away from his father and the oxen. He is excluded from the situation, but he listens and learns. The journey to and from Verplancks Point spans three of the fourteen chapters in the novel. In the first part of the journey, Tim ceases to be a child doing chores at home, and ceases to be isolated from the war. The journey marks the moment when Tim leaves the safety of childhood and is forced to grow up quickly.