What did John March (a character based on the historical figure Bronson Alcott) do in Geraldine Brooks' novel titled March? Describe him.

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The eNotes study guide to Geraldine Brooks' novel March (linked below) is an excellent place to begin any study of the novel and its main character, John March, who is based on the historical figure Bronson Alcott.  March is serving as chaplain for the Union army in the American Civil War. Since the study guide does such a fine job of summarizing the plot of the novel, I will focus here on some of the traits of March's personality. Among the traits he reveals are the following:

  • concern for his family (a wife and daughters), which is implied in some of the novel's opening sentences, in which March writes to his wife and mentions one of their children:

Forgive my unlovely script, for an army on the march provides no tranquil place for reflection and correspondence. (I hope my dear young author is finding time amid all her many good works to make some use of my little den, and that her friendly rats will not grudge a short absence from her accustomed aerie.)

  • particular concern for his wife
  • a reluctance to share with them any unpleasant facts about the war
  • compassion for his comrades
  • a very strong interest in learning and education
  • a growing dislike, as he matured, for slavery and racism
  • a growing revulsion at inhumane behavior, even or especially during war
  • an appreciation of the intellectual gifts and potential of women
  • an individualistic approach to religion and to teaching religion
  • strong sexual impulses
  • a growing commitment to abolitionism (that is, the movement to abolish slavery)
  • a strong interest in personal survival during wartime
  • love of his wife despite an involvement with another woman who, significantly, is African-American
  • a frequent sense of guilt

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