Hunt makes sure that most actions and reactions in Across Five Aprils have repercussions. There is a cyclical nature to many of the events and relationships. For example, Matthew Creighton indirectly saves the life of his daughter's killer, and then, in an interesting reversal, the killer's father, Mr. Burdow, saves Creighton's child. Bill joins the Southern army but has a chance to tell John that he did not fire the bullet that killed Eb. Jethro's troubling over Eb resolves itself in a personal letter from the president, revealing that Lincoln and Jethro are consumed by the same thoughts. Jethro is rewarded for his work at home by moving in with Jenny and Shadrach to pursue his studies. Jethro and Ross Milton eat at the same restaurant both at the beginning and at the end of the war, bringing the two full circle despite the war.
Hunt is consistently very fair in portraying both sides of the war. Often, the arguments that characters have do an accurate job of exploring both sides in a compelling fashion. Having one character so torn that he fights for the South shows how complicated this war was and that there is no clear right and no clear wrong. Shadrach and Jethro defend Bill's actions, saying that the most important thing is that he stood up for what he believed.
Jethro's loss of innocence does not come from typical aging, but rather from a set of circumstances that force him to feel and act much older than he actually is. Growing up during a war casts a melancholy feeling over most days. Beyond that, all of Jethro's brothers as well as his teacher are gone, fighting. Jethro worries for their lives and has to take over the responsibilities they left behind. Jethro's father has a heart attack, which leaves him, in the absence of his older brothers, as the man of the house. Jethro's brother deserts the war and comes to him for help. Those who are angry with Bill's decision to fight for the South threaten Jethro's family. And, to top it all off, Jethro suffers the lost of both a public and personal hero when Lincoln dies. Unlike some kids, Jethro cannot allow these problems to go over his head. Rather, he is forced to reckon with them directly, and the impact is that suddenly, Jethro's boyishness and innocence is lost.
Instead of ending the book at the end of the war, Hunt makes a point to inform the reader that it is not really over just because the fighting has stopped. As Ross Milton points out, simply because guns have stopped firing does not mean that things go back to normal or that the complicated life of wartime is over. Hunt hints at the issue of rebuilding and reconstruction and suggests that the country has a lot of healing and moving forward left to do before the country really recovers. To acknowledge this difficult transition is to provide a realistic end to this text and suggest that there are no easy answers to difficult problems.
More main ideas from Across Five Aprils