Across Five Aprils

Summary

Chapters 12

Summary Chapters 12

Jethro goes on with his daily business, but "there was no longer any beauty in the world about him or any serenity in his heart." Jethro never quite comes to peace with Lincoln's death and spends much time thinking and grieving. One day, he is lying on his back contemplating the tragedy when Shadrach Yale comes up to him. Shadrach says that Jenny is home too and that they wanted to surprise him. Shadrach tells him that he will help Jethro in the fields until John comes home, and then Jethro will move in with Shadrach and Jenny, to study. Jethro says that the family depends on him, but Shadrach says that his parents want what is best for him and that others can work the fields. Jethro runs up to the house to reunite with his sister.

Analysis

The final chapter in the book is surprisingly downcast, despite the Union victory and despite the return of family members Jethro and the rest of the Creightons have missed for years. Hunt demonstrates that even the "right" outcome in a war is still, in a sense, wrong—she echoes previous sentiments that there was no right option in the situation. The way the North acts toward the conclusion of the war is reprehensible. They do not act like patriots or soldiers, but rather like undisciplined boys indulging their anger. The whole point of the war was to fight for the Union and fight to end slavery, not simply to fight for the sake of it. The Union's sacking of the South, and ruining of many lands and homes did not further the cause of the North. Instead, it was a show of cruelty and strength and happened simply because the North could do it.

Milton wisely tells Jethro that peace will not be perfect, and it is not. The world has changed, and even though the war is over, everyone bears the scars. Life does not—indeed, it cannot—return to the way it was before the war. Many men are dead, many animosities have only intensified, and many people including Jethro have aged much too quickly during the years of war. Milton's statement is also prophetic, as President Lincoln is assassinated very shortly after the war ends. For Jethro, this is the final blow. Throughout the war, the only person Jethro had real faith in was the president. The Generals came and went, the soldiers fought and deserted, and the citizens of the country quarreled. The president was the only unfaltering presence, and Jethro felt a particular kinship with him after they exchanged letters. Jethro, Milton, and the rest of the country relied on Lincoln to lead the nation through the post- war reconstruction, but, with his leadership suddenly and violently obliterated, the country seems directionless. Lincoln's assassination irreparably shatters any faith Jethro had not yet lost.

The final few paragraphs twist upward in hope but do not erase or reconstruct the tragedies that have occurred on the previous pages. Jethro gets to live with Jenny and Shadrach and gets to devote his life to study. Hunt leaves the reader to wonder how this will affect Jethro, and whether he will ever be able to make peace with the war and Lincoln's death. The ending has a glimmer of hope because we and Jethro realize that if anyone could change the direction of Jethro's life, it is Shadrach. If Jethro could seek solace in any activity, it is learning. However, the book closes with a feeling of finality, as everyone knows that no matter what else could happen to the characters, the mark the war and the assassination has left on them is indelible.