Across Five Aprils

by: Irene Hunt

Chapters 6–7

Later that summer, Sam Gardiner, owner of the store in town, expects trouble at the hands of Guy Wortman, the man who had harassed Jethro. Wortman had sacked and robbed many other stores in town, so Gardiner pretends to close up shop but instead lies in wait with his shotgun for Wortman. Gardiner catches Wortman with buckshot, right in the behind. Wortman ceases causing trouble after that.

Jethro starts worrying about the leadership of the Union army when Grant gets effectively demoted. He thinks the Union generals care "more for personal prestige than for defeating the Confederates" and is disappointed in their leadership.

Analysis

These chapters serve to further Jethro's transformation from boy to man but in a different way than the ones that preceded it. Jethro must become the man of the house after Matt has a heart attack. He has to work the fields and earn income for the family, thus occupying his mind and his days with more adult responsibility. It is no coincidence that Matt's heart attack occurs at the time the war is getting particularly bad, as if it will continue for some time. Matt's heart attack is a reflection of what is going on inside of him—turmoil, fear, sadness, and a general lack of fortitude.

The vengeance shown by Guy Wortman is beyond cruel, and Hunt depicts a situation that goes from bad to worse. The only solace the Creightons had, while worrying about their sons and Shadrach, was the fact that they themselves were in no danger. Wortman takes that away and begins another kind of war and one perhaps even more despicable because it takes place at the most sacred place: home.

The news of Tom's death is surprisingly anti-climactic. This could be indicative of the fact that the Creightons had begun to accept the likelihood that one or more of their children would die in the war, or it could also be indicative of the fact that, somewhere deep down, they knew one of their children had died. The Creightons are no strangers to death, particularly of their children, as the ledger in the Bible reflects. Three children died of children's paralysis, Jethro's sister Mary was killed by Travis Burdow and now Tom dies in the war. The sheer number carries weight—five dead children. Jethro is not the only person who has undergone a loss of innocence and has had to face the hard facts of the world.

Just as life at the Creighton farm begins to unravel, the war effort does as well. The Union army cannot decide on who should lead the forces—they trade generals like baseball teams do pitchers, and the public opinion rises and falls with every decision. It seems that hopes are dashed over and over—the hope that the war will end soon, the hope that the North can make quick work of the South, the hope that all of the Creighton boys will survive, the hope that each new general will be the one to lead his army to victory and the hope that everything can again be as it once was all seem unpromising.