My Brother Sam is Dead

by: Christopher Collier & James Lincoln Collier

Chapters Ten–Eleven

Summary Chapters Ten–Eleven

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.