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On the face of it, Adam does not behave in the most mature fashion during the skirmishes that he is involved in. He throws up frequently, runs away when his father is shot dead and runs sobbing to older relatives like Cousin Simmons. Yet, there is an important inner change that begins in him at this time. In fact this change seems to begin even before the fighting starts, when he signs the town muster. This is the first time that his father seems to regard him as being a bit more grown up; he views him with new respect. Also the contrast with his younger brother Levi underlines the beginning of this change. Levi is excited and still treats the whole idea of war as a game, but Adam no longer does.
Perhaps the single most significant moment during the fighting which can be said to mark Adam’s transition to adulthood is when the realisation properly dawns that life will go on, even without his father. This points to the awakening of his larger perspective on life. He is greatly aided in this by the wise old soldier Solomon Chandler, who remarks 'Life is potent . . . . life has a special quality of asserting itself’. Chandler here acts as an important mentor-figure to Adam.
The fact that he has to look out for his terrified younger brother also helps Adam to mature during the fighting; he has to become a father-figure to little Levi. This theme continues when he returns home and is received as the man of the family following his father’s death. He has to look after his mother and grandmother, as well as his brother. It is also strongly implied that he will soon marry his girlfriend Ruth and thus take on the additional responsibilities of a husband.
Crucially, Adam also comes to a new understanding of the reality of war after being in the thick of it. He realises that it is anything but a glorious business, although it is sometimes necessary. His realisation about the nature of war is another example of his move towards maturity.
Adam, then, has to grow up very quickly in just two days, and although at the end he expresses deep unease at this state of affairs, he also unflinchingly accepts the fact that his life has changed irrevocably:
I had parted with childhood and boyhood forever.
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