My Brother Sam Is Dead Analysis
by Christopher Collier, James L. Collier

Start Your Free Trial

Download My Brother Sam Is Dead Study Guide

Subscribe Now


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

My Brother Sam Is Dead opens in April 1775 with the first battle of the American Revolution, the Minutemen's defeat of the British in Lexington, Massachusetts. The story ends a year and a half later, when Sam is executed by his British captors. The reader learns in the last chapter that Tim is telling the story in 1826, when he is sixty-four years old, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Most of the novel's action occurs in Redding Ridge, a once peaceful Tory town in southwestern Connecticut. The town becomes embroiled in bitter turmoil, and the war's effects on the Meeker family make for a gripping story. Christopher Collier has lived in southern Connecticut almost all his life, and his knowledge of the region's history adds depth to the characters, setting, and events of the story.

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The Colliers' collaborative work highlights the individual strengths of each brother. James's narrative structure and dialogue combine with Christopher's historical research to create a feeling for the era and its people. James Collier does an excellent job of expanding a selected historical event into an exciting story. His characters speak in a modern dialect, a feature that makes it easier for readers to understand the book. The descriptions of everyday life in Redding Ridge are well drawn and balance the sometimes dramatic and graphic depictions of death during wartime.

The plot, with its focus on divided loyalties, compels the reader to think seriously about issues of public and private duties during wartime. The Colliers refrain from providing easy answers, assuming that young readers can think for themselves about political controversy. Though the book's ending does not provide a satisfying conclusion, the authors' addition of an epilogue and a "How much of this book is true?" section helps to bring the book to an acceptable resolution. Social Sensitivity Although most contemporary

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Although most contemporary young adults are aware of the horror and suffering that attend warfare, they are, nonetheless, frequently exposed to books and films that glorify past conflicts. Writers often depict the American Revolution as a clearcut moral struggle that witnessed the triumph of freedomloving patriots over their oppressors. My Brother Sam Is Dead refuses to simplify the issues surrounding either the American Revolution or war in general. Mr. Meeker's Loyalist beliefs stem from his desire to maintain his business and protect his family; Sam's patriotism encourages him to place the rebel cause over family duties; and Tim remains at home, facing the unresolved conflict of divided personal loyalties. The story raises issues of family loyalty and teenagers' rights to defy parental judgment; to his father, Sam is defiant, not patriotic.

Some parents may object to the fact that the book describes violent death, although the accounts of violence are not sensationalized. Readers will note that the Colliers do not develop the book's female characters as thoroughly as they do its male characters; Sam's girlfriend Betsy Read is particularly shallow, her ideas and actions shaped by those of her boyfriend. The character Tom Warrups, however, is less stereotypical than Native Americans portrayed in many other books. Although Tom lives in a traditional tepee with a blanket flap entrance, he has become part of the white man's society, dressing as the other farmers in Redding dress and speaking English.

(The entire section is 980 words.)