Brother Sam is Dead Summary and Analysis-
of my summary and analysis of the novel My Brother Sam is
Dead. Everything you wanted to know about Tim, Sam, Life,
Betsy, Mr. Beach, William Heron, Tom Warrup and Jerry Sanford!
1: Summary and Analysis
story begins in April of 1775. Sam Meeker returns home from
college in uniform and full of excitement. "We've beaten the
British in Massachusetts" are the first words out of his mouth.
This comes as a surprise to his father, mother, brother, minister
and other locals in the taproom of the Meeker's tavern; they
are unaware of the rebellion brewing in Boston.
of what Sam is so excited about:
1775: a provincial congress was held in Cambridge, Massachusetts
during which John Hancock and Joseph Warren begin defensive
preparations for a state of war.
1775: the English Parliament declares Massachusetts to
be in a state of rebellion.
1775: Patrick Henry delivers a speech in Virginia against
British rule, stating, "Give me liberty or give me death!".
1775: the New England Restraining Act is endorsed by King
George the Third, requiring New England Colonies to trade
exclusively with England and bans fishing in the North
1775: Massachusetts Governor Thomas Gage is ordered to
enforce the Coercive Acts and suppress "open rebellion"
among the colonists by all necessary force.
1775: Gage orders 700 British soldiers to Concord to destroy
the colonists' weapons depot. That night Paul Revere makes
his famous ride reaching Lexington around midnight to
warn Sam Adams and John Hancock of the British plan.
1775: 70 rebels face off against the British on Lexington
Green. An unordered shot is fired and results in musket
volleys and a bayonet charge which leaves 8 Americans
dead and 10 injured. The British proceed to Concord, destroy
the colonists' weapon depot, yet are surprised by the
rebels on a bridge in Concord and suffer 14 casualties.
They are continually attacked on their retreat back to
Boston by the rebels and lose over 250 men.
- News of these
events spread like wildfire through the Colonies. Sam Meeker
portrays one example of how this news was delivered and
the initial shock of Sam's report, his father questions him
about the specifics of the events in Boston.
"Well, the beginning was when the Lobsterbacks-"
"By that I suppose you mean the soldiers of your King,"
displeasure with Sam's use of Lobsterbacks to describe the
British is our first indication of the Meeker family's allegiance
to the King of England: they are Anglican Church members who
regularly pray for the health of the King and Parliament.
comical and ironic about Sam's commentary is his use of the
word "Lobsterbacks" over and over again; Sam is wearing a
scarlet red coat himself.
expect an American soldier (like Sam) to be dressed
in Blue or tan, but many colors (green, brown, blue,
purple, tan, black & white) were used by different companies
of soldiers in that period. The different colors distinguished
the regiments from one another.
To the left is how a 4th Regiment Connecticut Soldier
encamped in Redding during the winter of 1778-79 looked.
This soldier would have been quartered at the middle
camp in Redding under Brig. Gen. Samuel Parsons' 1st
Connecticut Brigade, of which the 4th Connecticut Regiment
was a part of. The regiment was led by Col. John Durkee.
Most Continental regiments probably went through 2
or 3 or even 4 evolutions of uniforms during the entire
war. Washington himself called for a standard blue regimental
coat at the end of 1779, but it is doubtful if the entire
army ever changed to this color.
For more great paintings and images of the Revolutionary
War and Civil War, please visit Don
Troiani's gallery of Military Paintings.
Don Troiani was kind enough to paint the soldier to
the left for the Friends and Neighbors of Putnam Park
Sam recounts what he knows about Lexington and Concord the
room is filled with emotion & concern:
"…that's rebellion, they'll have us in war yet."
Beach: "I think men of common sense will prevail. Nobody
wants rebellion except fools and hotheads."
"That's not what they say in New Haven, sir, they say that
the whole colony of Massachusetts is ready to fight and if
Massachusetts fights, Connecticut will fight too."
"I WILL NOT HAVE TREASON SPOKEN IN MY HOUSE, SAM!"
reaction of those present mimics the reaction of men, women
and children throughout the colonies in 1775. War with England
was a frightful thought, below are some examples why:
Army was powerful and experienced. Many men, 40 years
of age or older, had fought along side the British soldiers
in the French and Indian War. They had experienced, first-hand,
the skill and tenacity of the enemy.
Land to the
West of the Appalachian Mountains was occupied by Indians,
England, the Spanish and the French, not Americans. Would
the colonists be able to defend themselves from attacks
from any one of them without the assistance of the British
businesses and merchants worried that if America split
from England they would be at risk of losing their prosperity.
Tobacco farmers are an example of those who actually did
suffer as a result of the American Revolution.
plan for self-government in place how would the colonies
- For families
that attended Anglican Churches their religion was directly
tied to England and a split from England would surely threaten
North America in 1775
As the main characters
debate the issues, we receive the opinions of the Rebels from
Sam and the opinions of the Loyalists from his father and
"I don't think the people of Redding are anxious to fight,
get the wrong idea from Redding, sir. There's a lot more Tories
in this part of Connecticut than in the rest of the colonies."
"…These agitators can always manage to stir up the passions
of the people for a week or so, but it never lasts. A month
later everybody's forgotten it- except the wives and children
of the men who've managed to get themselves killed." *Foreshadows
the fate of both Life and Sam.
it's worth dying to be free." *Foreshadows Sam's death.
Free to do what, Sam? Free to mock your King? To shoot your
neighbor? To make a mess of a thousand lives?…"
should they get rich off our taxes back in England? They're
3,000 miles away, how can they make laws for us?"
When Sam's comments
to Mr. Beach become disrespectful, Life loses his temper and
the discussion ends. Mr. Beach heads off to the church, and
Tim explains the relationships within his family and his feelings
about them. He also describes the tavern/store his family
operates on Redding Ridge, and the tasks a boy like himself
was responsible for in that time period. We learn of the role
and importance of religion in the life of the Meeker family
too, it is clear Tim and Sam have been raised on the ideals
of the Church of England:
said that idle hands make the Devil's Work."
couldn't boast about his triumphs to Father or Mother or Mr.
Beach or anybody like that, because boasting was pride and
pride was a sin..."
curse," I said. "It's a sin."
Talk of war returns
towards the end of the chapter, first when Sam discloses to
Tim that he came back to Redding for his father's gun and
second when Sam and Life argue over Sam taking the gun and
going to Massachusetts. Foreshadowing of what will happen
later in the novel occurs in both these conversations:
that: "he (Life) took it (the gun) with him every fall
when he went over to Verplancks Point to sell cattle and buy
supplies for the store. He'd never met up with any trouble…but
people he knew had been held up and robbed." Tim obviously
knows the importance of the gun and the purpose it serves
his father on cattle runs.
Life knowing the
horrors of war, (having fought in the Siege of Louisbourg
during French and Indian War) attempts to reason with Sam
using examples of the atrocities he experienced personally
when Sam exclaims that he is "…going to fight to keep my country
free." Sam refuses to be reasoned with and finally Life orders
him to leave:
Sam. Go. Get out of my sight. I can't bear to look at you
anymore in that vile costume. Get out…"
After the door
slams shut Tim hears something he has never heard before…his
had his head down on the table, and he was crying. I'd never
seen him cry before in my whole life; and I knew there were
bad times ahead."
There were certainly
bad times ahead, the hardships of war were marching towards
them. Men like Life would soon be called traders, loyalists
and tories because they did not support the rebellion. Some
would stay and remain silent, others would leave and join
the British forces, in either case they would suffer.
What do we learn
about the characters in Chapter 1?
1. Sam Meeker:
- Is for the
- Is returning
from college in New Haven (Yale)
- Likes being
the center of attention
- Is in the Governor's
Second Foot Guard under Captain Benedict Arnold
- Has a bad temper
- Often speaks
before thinking about what he's saying
- Is sixteen
years of age and has been in college for less than a year
- Was a triumphant
sort of person
- Has runaway
a few times after arguing with his father
- Plans on taking
his father's gun (Brown Bess) so he can go with his company
to Massachusetts and fight the Lobsterbacks.
2. Eliphalet (Life)
- Is against
- Is practical
- Has a bad temper
- Believes children
ought to keep a civil tongue in their heads and respect
- Has hit Sam
before, mostly for arguing
- Owns a store/tavern
on Redding Ridge
- Is a veteran
of the French and Indian War where he saw several friends
- Is an Anglican
- Sees himself
as an Englishman and subject of the King.
3. Tim Meeker:
- Looks up to
his brother Sam, "Oh, I envied him"
- Finds it funny
that Sam keeps saying "Lobsterback" when he was dressed
in red, too.
- Doesn't like
to see his father and Sam fight
- Is confused
by the topic of rebellion, thinks Sam makes some good points
but figures there is more too it than Sam knew about
- Respects his
father's practical knowledge
- Wants the debating/fighting
to end and for things to be like they used to be
- Knows that
Sam might run away to Warrups' hut if the fighting gets
- Is aware of
right and wrong, what you should and shouldn't do
4. Susannah Meeker:
- Had not seen
Sam since Christmas
- Does not like
it when Life hits Sam for speaking out but believes Life
is right that children ought to keep a civil tongue in their
head and respect their elders
5. Mr. Beach:
- Is the minister
at the Anglican Church on Redding Ridge
- Is against
- Feels loyalty
to England is virtue everywhere in America
- Warns Sam that
"God meant man to obey." As he sees it, King George the
Third is the head of the Anglican Church and thus his subjects
should obey him and should not question his ways.
Common Question: What
Country Did We Fight in the Revolutionary War?
2: Summary and Analysis
Tim provides background
information about his mother, father, town, neighborhood and
religion at the onset of chapter two. His comments here are
very important to the story as they show us that the war caused
division not only between England and America but also between
families, neighbors, and countrymen. In chapter one we learned
that Tim's family is divided over the rebellion, and in chapter
two we learn some underlying factors that will play a part
in why his neighborhood, town and ultimately the American
Colonies will be divided over "…whether we ought to obey His
Majesty's government or whether we should rebel."
The most important
comment Tim makes in chapter two is "What kept confusing me
about it was that the argument didn't have two sides the way
an argument should, but about six sides." Tim is speaking
of "opinions" people had of the British government's policies
following the French and Indian War. These new policies hampered
America's economic and geographical growth via:
- Trade restrictions
- The Presence
of British troops in America (and cost of having them here)
- British efforts
to prevent westward expansion of the colonies
- The Political
corruption of Royal Governors
The anger over
these policies had reached a boiling point and as Tim states:
"..it wasn't going to be just arguments anymore." The reason
Tim's comment is so important is that the debate over rebellion
was a complex topic with many sides that needed to be examined
and decided on by the American colonists prior to a rebellion.
Issues like: economics, government, religion, and safety in
the American Colonies should they gain Independence from Great
Britain were very important questions that really did not
have answers before the events at Lexington and Concord thrust
the American citizens into war with the British.
To know people
in your country (including your own son) planned on engaging
in military skirmishes with the intention of Independence
from imperial rule without a strategic plan of action nor
a solid political agenda was quite alarming. Life Meeker's
thoughts echoed many in the American Colonies at the outbreak
of the war:
whole argument is over a few taxes that hardly amount to anything
for most people. What's the use of principles if you have
to be dead to keep them? We're Englishmen, Timmy. Of course
there are injustices, there are always injustices, that's
the way of God's world. But you never get rid of injustices
by fighting. Look at Europe, they've had one war after another
for hundreds of years, and show me where anything ever got
any better for them…"
He was absolutely
right, one war after another had plunged England into such
a financial deficit that it had to turn to its colonies to
help pay for war debts. The reaction to these taxes and trade
restrictions paved the way to the Revolution, so England didn't
have anything better because of war and it was about to get
But the debating
was over now, the war had begun and from this point forward
all anyone wanted to know was "what side are you on?". As
Anglican church members is was tough to be on the side of
the Patriots (rebels) when your minister Mr. Beach made loyalty
to the King the subject of his Sunday sermon.
said that our first duty was to God but that our Lord Jesus
Christ had said, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things
which are Caesar's" and that meant we were supposed to be
loyal Englishmen. He said that hot-tempered young men who
listened not to the voices of their elders would bring a wrathy
God down on their own heads. He said that the Bible commanded
youth to honor their fathers, which made me pretty nervous
for Sam, because it was a sin to shout at your father the
way he had done, and maybe God would punish him…between being
worried about that (God getting Sam) and being confused over
which side was right I couldn't concentrate on church much.
I just wanted to get out of there. But Mr. Beach always preached
at least an hour and being fired up about the Lexington battle
he went on longer."
in chapter two distinguish him as a metaphoric symbol of one
third of the American population during the war. He portrays
the American that is uncertain which side is right and does
not wish to choose a side until forced to, sometimes referred
to as "fence-sitters". Sam and Life are examples of the other
two thirds: the rebel/patriot and the loyalist. While there
were obviously more than three positions regarding the war
it is easiest to group them in this fashion.
"Timmy are you on your father's side or Sam's?
wished she hadn't asked me that question. I didn't want to
answer it ; in fact, I didn't know how to answer it. 'I don't
understand what it's all about,' I said."
simple, either we're going to be free or we're not."
"It isn't that simple, Sam. There's more to it."
The ensuing conversation
between Sam, Betsy and Tim at Tom Warrups' hut contains a
foreshadowing comment by Sam:
wants to get killed, but you should be willing to die for
And a foreshadowing
comment by Tim:
you can't take it (the gun), we need it at home. Father needs
Sam being a triumphant
sort of person is still speaking without thinking about what
he is saying. His bravado and zest for action have taken over
and he's ready to go to war at all costs. He's even willing
to take away the only defense his family has at home and his
father has on his cattle runs to live up to his principles
and teach the King a lesson.
3: Summary and Analysis
Chapter 3 does
not offer much information, Tim explains what life in Redding
is like in the summer of 1775. He misses Sam and is still
confused about the which side he is on.
still hadn't made up my mind which side I was on in the war,
and I didn't care whether Sam was a Patriot or a Tory or what.
All I could think about was snuggling up to him and listening
to him talk about scoring telling points."
The war was underway
but the "…battles all seemed far away- they were just things
we read about in the Connecticut Journal and other newspapers."
As far as Tim is
concerned "it wasn't any different from usual, it was just
normal." What wasn't normal was the topics being discussed
in the tavern, and Betsy Read does her best to linger around
and listen to what is being said. Betsy is looking out for
Sam and his cause. She stated in chapter 2 that: "I'd fight
if I could." She cannot and so her contribution to the rebellion
4: Summary and Analysis
Sam has returned
to Redding but Tim's excitement quickly turns to fear when
the Sons of Liberty arrive at the tavern to disarm his father.
When his father explains that his son, Sam, has taken his
gun and run off to join the Patriot army, the soldiers aren't
buying it and start to rough him up. If the Brown Bess cannot
be found Tim fears they will kill his father.
knew the Rebels weren't just playing; they'd kill Father if
they wanted to."
His daydreams of
heading up to Tom Warrups' hut to visit Sam have been replaced
with nightmarish visions:
I could see in front of me was that Rebel officer pushing
a sword through Father's stomach."
In a panic he
races franticly to Lonetown and is able to get the gun away
from Sam, who is asleep, but cannot out run his brother once
Sam discovers what has happened. The brothers face-off in
a confrontation that ultimately defines Tim's position on
the war and alters his view of Sam.
leveled the Brown Bess at his stomach and I said, Don't come
any closer, Sam, or I'll shoot you."
isn't loaded Tim."
don't be crazy. It isn't loaded. Now give it to me before
it gets damaged."
Sam, Jesus, they're down there and they're going to kill Father
if he doesn't give them the Brown Bess."
Who's down there?"
Continentals, with some others from Fairfield."
"Then he lunged. I never knew whether I would have pulled
the trigger because the next thing I was lying on the ground
with Sam on top of me, and he'd got the gun."
would have shot me, you little pig, wouldn't you?" then he
got up. "Are you all right?"
wouldn't tell you if I wasn't, you son of a -----. By this
time they've probably killed Father."
I can't go down there…I'm not supposed to be here"
right then, let me take the gun home and give it to them."
can't do that, Tim. If I go back to camp without my weapon,
they'll surely hang me."
God, Sam, what did you have to fight for? Why didn't you stay
couldn't, Tim. How could I not go when all of my friends were
family ought to be more important than your friends…I think
you're a coward."
right, Sam, if you're not a coward, come home with me and
see if everything is alright."
Sam agrees to follow
Tim as far as the barn, but once the house is in sight realizes
his place and crosses the barnyard with Tim to the kitchen.
In the kitchen, Life, with a line of dried blood across his
face, stands within five feet of Sam who stares back at his
father, then turns and runs away from him for the last time.
The war has forced
Tim to mature and take on responsibilities that he normally
would not have. The events of Chapter Four call for quick
and decisive thinking on his part and Tim has chosen the side
of his father. The glorified view he once had of the Rebel
Troops fighting against the British Lobsterbacks in some far
away place, has been replaced with threatening soldiers in
his own home.
war had finally come to Redding, and it was terrible."
Tim has not completely
lost respect and admiration for Sam but it is clear that Tim
has chosen to defend his family not "principles".
5: Summary and Analysis
Chapter Five is
a narrative chapter. Tim paints us a picture of the dilemma's
Redding is facing at this point in the war:
have lost their guns, no longer have any protection, cannot
hunt for food, kill wolves, etc...
Food was getting
Cows and Cattle
were being stolen
- Soldiers from
Redding were coming home injured; Some local soldiers had
But for Tim, the
worst part is Sam is not at home. Despite the drama between
Tim and Sam in Chapter Four, time has healed all wounds and
Tim worries that Sam will be "shot or get sick and die or
something else." He even admits that he envies him several
seemed to me that it must feel wonderful to be able to load
up a gun in the casual way he did…He (Sam) seemed so brave
and grown-up, and I wished that I could be brave an grown-up
like him , too…Being a soldier probably didn't have much glory
to it…But still, I envied Sam, and I wished I were old enough
to do something glorious, too."
Tim's envy stops
at Sam, he is still not sure which side is right: the British
have the best uniforms though the gritty, underdog position
of the Patriots is attractive to him, too.
the mysterious William Heron, offers Tim a sound opportunity
to gain some glory of his own…
"Mr. Heron had wanted me to carry some sort of war message
or spy reports or something, and that night as I lay in bed
in the loft, I thought about it. Oh, it would scare me all
right, walking down to Fairfield with spy messages, but I
wanted to do it, because it would give me something to boast
about to Sam. He'd been having all the adventures, he was
going to come home with terrific stories about being in the
army and fighting and all that, and I wanted to have something
to tell, too. Why should he have all the glory? Why shouldn't
I have some, too? I wanted him to respect me and be proud
of me and not think of me as just his little brother anymore."
His father does
not want Tim to carry messages for Mr. Heron, he knows it
is too risky. As he had done with Sam, Life tries to provide
Tim with a sensible explanation of why he does not want him
to carry messages for Mr. Heron.
please, it's dangerous. You think that because you're a child
they won't hurt you, but they will. They've been killing children
in this war. They don't care. They'll throw you in a prison
ship and let you rot. You know what happens to people on those
prison ships? They don't last very long. Cholera get them
or consumption or something else, and they die. Tim, it isn't
foreshadow his own fate, and are very true, many died on prison
ships during the American Revolution and children were amongst
them. Tim's reaction is much different than Sam's but rebellious
knew he was right, that it wasn't worth taking the chance.
I wanted to do it anyway. But there wasn't any use in arguing
about it with father…Two weeks later I figured out how to
The irony is how
Tim figures out how to do it: the idea comes from his friend,
Jerry, who dies on a prison ship later in the story.
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