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The fascinating basis of this account is taken from the historical interest that Geraldine Brookes discovered when she moved to an area that was full of history of the Civil War. This encouraged her to re-examine a famous American classic of literature: Little Women, which interestingly does not mention the Civil War in any meaningful sense, even though the father of the girls is fighting in this war. March then tells the story of their father from his perspective, and in particular focuses on his move from innocence to experience. She charts the way that he started as an idealistic recruit for the Union Army as a chaplain, and how he has to confront various difficult realities about slavery and the truths behind it. This is evident in numerous places, but perhaps one of the best quotes that identifies the development of John March's character is the following quotation:
And now, a year has passed since I undertook to go to war, and I wake every day, sweating, in the solitude of the seed store at Oak Landing, to a condition of uncertainty. More than months, more than miles, now stand between me and that passionate orator perched on his tree-stump puplit. One day, I hope to go back. To my wife, to my girls, but also to the man of moral certainty that I was that day; that innocent man, who knew with such clear confidence exactly what it was that he was meant to do.
Note the massive distance, both in geography and time, between the present John March and the idealistic, and, it is suggested, rather naive John March who looks back and describes himself as a "passionate orator" who possessed "moral certainty" and clear purpose. The realities of war have plunged him into "uncertainty" and it is clear that, no matter how much he wishes to return, he will never be able to become the person he once was because of his experience of war.
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