My Brother Sam Is Dead

by Christopher Collier, James L. Collier

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Tim's evolving perspective on the war in "My Brother Sam is Dead"


Tim's perspective on the war evolves from naive enthusiasm to disillusionment and skepticism. Initially, he admires the patriotism and valor associated with the conflict. However, as he witnesses the brutal realities and personal losses, including his brother Sam's death, Tim becomes critical of the war's true cost and questions its justification.

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How do Tim's feelings toward the war change in "My Brother Sam is Dead"?

As with many young men, Tim is initially very enthusiastic about war. He sees the bitter, bloody conflict between the American colonists and the British as nothing more than an awfully big adventure in which lots of exciting stuff happens. Tim's immaturity is understandable; he's never witnessed the horrors of war and so his view of war is somewhat romanticized.

All that will change, however, when he actually experiences the tragedy of war at first hand. So long as the war's kept at a safe distance, Tim can still indulge his boyish fantasies. But when the war's brought home to him and his family, he can no longer ignore the harsh realities of war.

As the war turns up on his doorstep, Tim finds himself torn between competing loyalties. On the one hand, his father—a Loyalist—has been kidnapped by the Rebels. On the other, the British troops that Tim's father supports rampage their way through the town, murdering and pillaging as they go. All of a sudden, Tim's been hit with the stark realization that war's a good deal more complex than he previously imagined. For Tim, this incident sets in train a gradual process of disillusionment which is completed when his big brother Sam is publicly shot by the Rebels on a trumped-up charge of cattle rustling.

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How do Tim's feelings toward the war change in "My Brother Sam is Dead"?

When "My Brother Sam is Dead" first opens, the audience sees Tim as a wide-eyed boy. He sees war and battles as this grand adventure and he is a little disappointed that Sam gets to enlist in the army without him. Throughout the story, Tim is constantly trying to prove himself and get a taste of what he thinks of as Sam's glorious life.

Once the war begins, however, Tim's reality is shaken. He sees soldiers enter his home and prepares to fight them off. Later, he sees his father get kidnapped and barely escapes with his life. Through these events, Tim learns that war is not an adventure but rather a brutal reality which costs many innocent lives.

Tim's vision of war changed so much from the start of the story that when Sam's time comes to re-enlist, Tim begs him not to. He knows it will make him seem weak or afraid, but he doesn't care. At that point, he just wants to keep his brother safe—ultimately to no avail. 

At the very end of the story, in the epilogue, the reader gets a chance to see the adult Tim has become. He leads a happy and fulfilling life but still isn't sure the cost of war was worth it in the end.

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In My Brother Sam is Dead, by authors Christopher Collier and James L. Collier, what does Tim think about the war?

In the beginning of My Brother Sam is Dead, by authors Christopher Collier and James L. Collier, young protagonist Tim expresses feelings of confusion about the Revolutionary War, and his confusion stems from the fact that his family is divided, just like the colonies are divided: his father is a loyalist, also called a Tory, whereas his 16-year-old brother Sam is a Rebel, meaning a Revolutionary. We see Tim's first thoughts of confusion in the very first chapter.

While sitting at dinner with his father, their minister Mr. Beach, and the newly arrived Sam, the young and naive Tim listens to both sides of the argument. As a loyalist, his father argues that, as subjects of the king, they have a God-given command to remain loyal to the king. He is even willing to argue that the king, simply because he is king, and Parliament know what's best for their people and that their judgements shouldn't be questioned. Though Sam is in favor of the war, it's also very evident that since Sam is also still very young, he doesn't seem to understand thoroughly all the reasons for the war he is supporting. All he can say is that "it's worth dying to be free" and that the king should not be growing rich off of the colonist's taxes nor make laws for the colonies when neither the king nor Parliament are there in the colonies to see what's going on.

Silently, Tim agrees that the colonies should be free and "not have to take orders from people who were so far away"; however, he also senses that Sam does not fully understand all of the reasons behind the war and therefore Tim cannot support the fighting. In addition, since Tim is so young, he can't shake seeing their father as a leader and an authority figure. He can't help but assume that their father "knew more than Sam"; therefore, he also can't help but silently agree with their father's perspective as well.

In the second chapter, Tim goes into even more details about just how confusing he finds the subject of the war to be, especially since he counted at least six different sides to the argument. Some believed in being loyal to the king; some believed in being completely free to rule on their own; and others wanted to remain a part of England but still have the ability to govern more freely. In short, Tim witnessed so many arguments being disputed daily that he felt far too confused to form his own opinion about the war.

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What were Tim's views on the war in My Brother Sam Is Dead?

There isn't a definitively correct answer to this question. Part of the reason for that is because Tim is the story's narrator, and he is constantly explaining to readers that he is not ever quite sure what to think about the war. On one hand, he is caught up in the romanticism and glory of being involved as a soldier. On the other hand, he sees how the war is breaking apart his family and town. He also experiences how the war is negatively affecting his family's business by driving up prices without any kind of extra profit margins. Tim is asked on a few occasions which side he supports, but Tim never has a straight answer for it. He doesn't know if he is a Patriot like his brother or a Loyalist like his father, and he doesn't want to disappoint either of them.

Then Betsy Read said, "Timmy are you on your father's side or Sam's?"

I wished she hadn't asked me that question. I didn't want to answer it; in fact, I didn't know how to answer it.

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