My Brother Sam is Dead

by: Christopher Collier & James Lincoln Collier

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Telling Points

One of the things Tim most admires about Sam is Sam's ability to succeed in college debates with "telling points" that shake any argument in his favor. These telling points rarely work against Father, who is accustomed to trusting in his own set of rhetoric to get his way, but they never cease to impress Tim. They are a symbol of Sam's scrappiness, and his ability to remain on his toes and combat what attacks him in an easy and graceful manner. When Sam learns that he is going to die, he jokes ruefully that he didn't score enough telling points.

Betsy Read

The only significant woman in the story besides Tim's mother, Betsy is very important as a war barometer. She is prohibited from fighting, but overcompensates for this by trying to be as involved as possible in helping Sam and the rebels to win the war. She lingers around the tavern eavesdropping, she wrestles a potentially dangerous letter away from Tim, and finally, when she has lost all hope in the cause, her despair gives us a clue that something horrible is going to happen. When the Rebels and Sam are strong, she supports them fully, and by the very end when she loses her patriotism, it indicates that her cause—Sam's success in the war—will not rise triumphantly again.