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My Brother Sam is Dead

Christopher Collier & James Lincoln Collier

Chapters Ten–Eleven

Chapters Eight–Nine

Chapters Twelve–Thirteen

Summary

Chapter Ten

With neither Mr. Meeker nor Sam at home, Tim and his mother must work overtime to keep up the tavern. Mrs. Meeker tells Tim not to worry, that God will forgive them for working Sundays. Tim thinks to himself that he was not worried. Business at the tavern is good, but because money is short, many people pay in commissary notes that will only have any value if the Rebels win the war. Mrs. Meeker has a discussion with Colonel Read, who has lost hope in the Rebel cause. Colonel Read mentions that Sam might not even be allowed to return home. Tim finds that since returning from Verplancks Point, he has felt a new responsibility for the tavern, a drive to do chores well, and an unwillingness to postpone work. He excitedly imagines showing off his knowledge of the tavern and its upkeep to Sam. Still, Tim misses his father and resents Sam's willingness to shirk family responsibility.

Winter passes, and on April 26, 1777, Tim hears an alarming thundering noise. He overhears a local black man named Ned telling Captain Betts that the noise is British troops marching in. Captain Betts sends Jerry Sanford to alert Mr. Rogers, another local Rebel. Tim notes how impressive the British army is, uniformed and spanning a mile on the little dirt road. He watches several officers go into Mr. Heron's house. Tim talks to an Irish member of the British army, and when the soldier asks why Tim is not afraid of him, Tim replies that his town is mostly Tories. Tim realizes as he speaks that he counts himself a Tory after watching Father's kidnap by Rebel cow-boys.

Events speed up and grow more violent. The officers break into Captain Betts' house as Tim watches in fear. The British seem organized and ready to move on when a Rebel messenger appears at the top of a hill and is shot down by the British. Colonel Read helps carry the bleeding men into the tavern and sends Tim to Dr. Hobart's house. Tim runs the two miles there through the woods. He is almost there when he hears gunshots, and drops into the woods to hide. From his hiding place, he observes the British army surrounding Captain Starr's house, where Starr and several other rebels, including Ned, are firing at the army. As Tim watches, the British enter the house and massacre the Rebels. Tim vomits when he sees Ned's head jumping in the air, sliced off by a British sword. The British soldiers burn the house and bodies, and as Tim continues to Dr. Hobart's house, he loses his sympathy for the British side and the Tories.

Chapter Eleven

Back in the tavern, Dr. Hobart removes the bullet, and the wounded Rebel messenger seems all right. Before passing out from all the rum he drank as an anesthetic, the wounded messenger tells the people in the tavern that Captain Benedict Arnold was preparing to bring his army through Redding in pursuit of the British. Tim knows Arnold is the leader of Sam's troop, and he hopes that Sam will return with them. Captain Betts runs into the tavern saying that the British let him go but kept Jerry Sanford. This puzzles Tim. Captain Betts tells Tim to ring the church bell to alert the town, but Mrs. Meeker forbids it. Tim is relieved, for he no longer wants to be involved in the war. Mrs. Meeker prays and then begins preparing dinner. Several Rebel officers burst in the tavern, demanding food and rum. One of these officers is Benedict Arnold, and upon seeing him, Tim races to a group of soldiers in front of the church across the street and asks for Sam. One soldier sympathizes with Tim and brings him inside, where he and Sam reunite, happily and tearfully.

Tim tells Sam about their father's capture. Sam knows, and has already tried unsuccessfully to get him out of prison. Sam hides in the barn and Tim runs inside and signals Mrs. Meeker to follow him outside. Tim brings Sam food, which he eats like he is starving. Mrs. Meeker tries to persuade Sam to return home after his enlistment ends in two months. Sam refuses, saying he has promised some of his friends in the army that they will all would stay in it until the British are beaten. Mrs. Meeker begins to argue with Sam, but Tim warns her that arguing will not change Sam's mind, and she falls quiet. As Tim says goodbye to his brother, he notes that for the first time he knows that Sam is wrong about something. Tim understands that despite Sam's hard soldier's life, Sam feels fulfilled by being part of something greater than himself. Tim suddenly feels like Sam's equal, not his little brother.

Analysis

Tim's loyalties and principles shift a great deal in Chapter Ten. Religion, an ever-present force in the Meeker family, becomes less important to Tim. He has real responsibilities and worries, and bothers less with his worries about sin. He begins to think most about taking care of the tavern, and stops thinking so much about God. Anglican principles, such as not working on Sundays, seem unimportant compared to the more immediate fears of starvation and poverty. It is not that Tim squelches his guilt; he does not even feel guilty to begin with. The Meeker business becomes Tim's responsibility, and he speaks with a new responsibility and interest about running it. He puts aside his childish way of grudgingly doing chores at the last minute and leaving the greater decisions to his parents.

Tim's loyalty fluctuates from one extreme to the other. His experiences place him in contact with both British and Patriot soldiers, and neither group impresses him. After seeing the Rebel cow-boys take away his father, Tim feels confident telling the Irish soldier that he is a Tory. When Tim sees the British soldiers taking his friend, Jerry Sanford, into captivity, Tim grows more skeptical, wondering what the soldiers would want with a small boy. At the end of Chapter Ten, when he watches the British soldiers break into Captain Starr's house and massacre the men inside, Tim realizes that he cannot fully support the British any more than he can the Patriots. Both sides act horribly and desperately. Tim understands this and realizes he does not want to take a side. He simply wants to protect himself and his family until the war ends. Tim's attitude at the end of Chapter Ten is very similar to the attitude Mr. Meeker has always had toward the war. Tim is no longer enchanted with zealotry or the idea of joining something potent and collective and great. Tim's ideas drift farther and farther apart from Sam's. Slowly and through painful experience, Tim is creating his own wisdom and practicality that has nothing to do with his brother.

Still, Tim's attitude toward Sam does not change significantly. Although Tim takes on his new role with mature energy, he still thinks with a childish smugness about the ways he can impress Sam with his expertise about the running of the tavern. Although Tim feels mature and indispensable in his new position of responsibility, he still resents Sam for being away "playing soldier boy" while Tim is at home working hard. The surgery scene at the beginning of Chapter Eleven is comforting, because it suggests that people can treat each other with decency even if they are fighting for different sides. Dr. Hobart cares for the wounded Rebel soldier in Meeker tavern not because of the man's affiliation, but because he is a human in pain. The goodwill shown to the unknown Rebel soldier, as well as the optimism about his healing process, are a relief after the recklessness and murder pervading the brush with war in the previous chapter.

We see that Tim has outgrown the war when he feels relief at his mother's refusal to allow him to go to the church and ring the bell. Tim sides with his mother and his absent father. He no longer wants adventure, he just wants to stay uninvolved in what he now sees clearly as someone else's war. To Tim, patriotism is not as important as safety. To Sam, in contrast, the glory of independence trumps other concerns. Tim finally sees Sam, who has become a true man of war. Sam looks skinny and ragged, eats ravenously, and is firmly determination to remain with the cause until its end. Although his soldier's lease will expire in two months, Sam has decided to reenlist, attributing his decision to a promise he made to several other soldiers to fight until they win. Mrs. Meeker finds it appalling that Sam would choose loyalty to a few soldiers he has just met over loyalty to his family, which badly needs him at home. Tim agrees with her, but does not argue. His maturity shines through in this chapter when he recognizes the finality of Sam's decision and does not fight it, even though he disagrees. Tim realizes that his reunion with Sam placed him in the position of Sam's equal. He no longer blindly follows Sam's judgment; he does not even trust Sam's judgment at all anymore. The events that turn Tim away from war fuel Sam's fixation with war, a fundamentally different reaction. Tim Meeker has grown enough and seen enough to judge for himself that Sam's reason for fighting is not justification enough for the sacrifices he might have to make.

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