My Brother Sam Is Dead

by Christopher Collier, James L. Collier

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Student Question

Why does Mrs. Meeker refuse to let Tim assist Captain Betts in chapter 11 of "My Brother Sam Is Dead"?

Expert Answers

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The war has torn the Meeker family apart, and Mrs. Meeker is not about to let Tim, her only remaining son, get involved in it too.  The Meeker family is entangled in both sides of the war - Tim's brother Sam is fighting for the rebel cause, while his father, Life Meeker, is a loyalist.  Eventually, Life Meeker is arrested by the very army that his son Sam is fighting for, and with his disappearance and possible death, Mrs. Meeker is left with only Tim, and the tavern the family had long struggled to maintain.  Mrs. Meeker has tried to be the peacemaker in the family, but when her husband is taken away and she realizes that Sam is not going to return to help the family, she becomes embittered.

When Captain Betts asks Tim to go ring the church bell to call the rebel troops to order, Mrs. Meeker inequivocably tells him,

"No, no...not my boy.  You don't involve anymore Meekers in this terrible war.  Send your own child out to play soldier if you want, Stephen Betts, but no more of mine".

When Betts questions her patriotism, Tim's mother retorts,

"Bah, patriotism.  Your patriotism has got my husband in prison and one of my children out there in the rain and the muck shooting people and likely to be dead any minute, and my business half ruined.  Go sell your patriotism elsewhere, I've had enough of it...leave my boy alone' (Chapter 11).

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