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Across Five Aprils

Irene Hunt

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Study Questions

What does Ross Milton mean when he says peace will not be a "perfect pearl?" Is he right?

What Milton means is that just because the war is over does not mean that everything will go back to the way it once was. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers are dead—hundreds of thousands of husbands, fathers, and brothers will not come home, including Tom. Also, there is much reconstruction to do. Even though the Union won, the country is still divided and deeply wounded. It also extends to the country's divided attitude toward slavery—just because there is an amendment abolishing slavery does not mean that people will readily accept blacks or will treat them nicely, employ them or respect them as fellow citizens. Milton's statement ends up being even more prophetic than that and takes on a whole new meaning when Lincoln is assassinated.

How does Hunt represent the war in her book?

Hunt does not seem to be anti-war or pro-war. She represents the death and destruction of war but does not suggest that the Civil War was unnecessary. She does represent the war as an imperfect solution to a problem—a problem that seems to have no real answer. Hunt does not extol the virtues of either side of the war and even has a character fight for the South in order to represent the legitimacy of both sides. In many ways, the war is understandable—both sides have legitimacy grievances, and while in the wake of history it is easier to sympathize with the Union cause, Hunt fairly represents the complaints of the Confederacy throughout the text. The aspect of war that Hunt disdains heavily is Sherman's treatment of Savannah. It pillages homes, farmsteads, and land in a way that is disrespectful not just to the enemy, but to honor and to life itself. Hunt represents those acts in a tone of disgust, but she withholds such sentiment at other times throughout the text. Hunt also includes a portrayal of war's effects on the families on the home front. Indeed, for the Creightons at home, the war is as hard if not harder on them as it is on the soldiers actually fighting in it. The waiting, speculating, and sorrow that the soldiers' families must endure for years become nearly unbearable, yet they have no power to affect anything about the war. They can only wait and hope.

How does President Lincoln shape Jethro's growth?

President Lincoln is as much of a teacher and role model for Jethro as Shadrach, but in a very different way. Jethro sees President Lincoln as a teacher for the entire country and is almost surprised when he finds relevance in the President's "lessons." When he realizes that the president toils with many of the same concerns he is comforted, because it means that someone other than he is trying to find the right answers to what he believes are important questions. Lincoln is steadfast and remains consistent under mounting pressure and responsibility, much like Jethro. Jethro even thinks of the president's face and recognizes sadness and fatigue within it, much like Jethro manifests on his own face. Throughout the text Jethro feels a kinship with the president that develops during their written correspondence and then cuts like a knife when the president is killed. The president and Jethro also share the same faith that everything, in the end, will turn out okay. With someone like Lincoln in charge of the country, there was a safety net or kind of protection. With Lincoln gone, it seems much more difficult for the wounds of the country and its people to heal.

What is the role of women in the war?

How do Jethro's views of education change or progress throughout the text?

If Bill returned home after the war, how do you think the Creightons would react? How would the town react?

If Jethro were old enough, do you think he would have chosen to fight in the war? For which side, and why?

What is the role of public opinion in the war?

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