The Collier brothers have written a moving fictional account of the Revolutionary War's disruption of a small Connecticut village. America gained its independence at a great price. Students may think of all the colonists as patriots dedicated to liberation, but as My Brother Sam Is Dead makes clear, such was not the case. The revolutionaries met with great opposition from many loyal supporters of England, their mother country. The emotions that divided the emerging nation also caused internal dissent among family members whose loyalties differed. The Meeker family in My Brother Sam Is Dead illustrate the fact that war involves conflicts that lack clearcut divisions of territory or loyalty. The father, Life Meeker, remains loyal to England and the king, while his elder son, Sam, joins the fight for independence. Tim, the younger son who wishes to remain loyal to both, gets caught in the middle. Families are torn apart, and young couples are separated as characters struggle with wide-ranging emotions and disparate political loyalties.
Most books for young adults about the American Revolution depict only a single point of view, usually that of the colonials who rebelled against the Crown and fought wholeheartedly for American independence. Christopher Collier thought it important to incorporate, in a single work, several different colonial outlooks on the war, and he persuaded his brother James to collaborate. To this end, the book portrays...
(The entire section is 319 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of My Brother Sam Is Dead Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Chapter 1 Summary
When the door to the Meekers' Connecticut tavern slams open on a rainy night in April of 1777, fourteen-year-old Tim is delighted to see his brother Sam standing there, wearing a fancy uniform of scarlet, white, and black.
Sam Meeker, who is sixteen and a student at Yale, is full of news about a recent skirmish with British forces in nearby Massachusetts. According to his account, the "damn Lobsterbacks" marched from Boston up to Lexington the previous day, looking for "Mr. Adams and Mr. Hancock," then proceeded on to Concord in search of ammunition stores. Due to the wiliness of the Patriots, however, both missions were unsuccessful and Minutemen hiding in the fields along the road "massacred them all the way . . . to Boston."
The group at the table—Mother, Father, Tim, Mr. Beach the minister, and some farmers—is silent when the young man finishes speaking. Struggling to keep his temper, Father asks Sam to retell his story in an orderly manner. This time, Sam admits that much of his information is based upon rumor but insists that the news about the fighting is true, as it came from the leader of his own company, Captain Benedict Arnold himself.
As Sam retells his story, Father, a staunch Loyalist, scolds him for using the derogatory term "Lobsterbacks" to describe "the soldiers of [his] King," while Mr. Beach asks pointedly, "Who shot first?" Sam concedes that he does not know for sure but argues that it does not matter as the Lobsterbacks have "[no] right . . . to be here anyway."
When he finishes his narrative by describing again how the Minutemen "peppered [the British] . . . all the way back home," one of the farmers exclaims, "Damn it, that's rebellion . . . they'll have us in war yet." An argument ensues with Sam asserting that the British are exploiting the colonists with unfair taxes, and that there are many like him who are ready to fight for freedom. Father counters by declaring that "God meant man to obey . . . children to obey their fathers . . . men to obey their kings," and forbids his son to speak treason in his house.
Listening wordlessly, young Tim is conflicted. What Sam says about freedom sounds right, yet he has the feeling that there is more to the issue than his brother understands. However, he is just glad that Sam is home and looks forward to hearing his tales about the pretty girls he knows in New Haven.
When the meal is...
(The entire section is 899 words.)