Christopher Collier Hughes Moir - Essay

Hughes Moir

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In My Brother Sam Is Dead, the first book created by Jim and Kit Collier, the complexity of issues about the Revolutionary War and war in general is explored in ways perhaps unique in children's literature. The story, set in Connecticut, shows a family torn between divided partisanship toward the war: the Loyalist dimension (Mr. Meeker's concern with maintaining his business and protecting his family) versus the Patriot dimension (young Sam Meeker's decision to join the rebel forces). Sam's younger brother, Tim, remains at home and is left with the ultimately unresolved conflict of torn personal loyalties. In the end both his father and brother are killed, providing the reader with biting ironies. His father is killed by the British when he attempts to deliver his cattle to the British troops; Sam is executed by his Patriot regiment after falsely being accused of stealing cattle that belonged to his family. In the end neither Tim nor the reader can make any clear-cut commitment to either side of the conflict. The theme of this book—sharply defined by the events of the story and useful as a "guide to contemporary behavior"—is explained by Kit Collier:

In a complex way it deals with why Americans did and did not become involved in the war. We wanted to show also that war unleashes forces that one does not know what the outcome may be. Hence, the usefulness of history to explain our present, for example, Lebanon and Viet Nam.

As a work conceived to present concepts related to the issues of war, My Brother Sam Is Dead portrays the Revolutionary War not as the good guys versus the bad guys, but rather as a civil war where families and communities were divided in public opinion. It was not an easy war to fight or to make decisions about. (p. 377)

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(The entire section is 762 words.)