Christopher Collier Joyce Alpern - Essay

Joyce Alpern

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[My Brother Sam Is Dead] in many ways fits the traditional mold of period adventure. Like Esther Forbes's Newbery winning Johnny Tremain, its hero, Tim Meeker, is a boy caught up in the events of the American Revolution, who rubs elbows with historical luminaries and grows to manhood under the war's demands. The startling difference here is that Tim Meeker goes through the war totally immune to the Spirit of '76. In fact the only ardent Patriot to play a major part in this novel is Tim's older brother Sam, an idealistic, sometimes rather sophomoric youth who catches the war fever from his Yale classmates.

To modern readers Tim's lack of partisanship seems rather surprising. After all the Revolution remains one of the few really popular wars in our history…. Certainly it provides one occasion when juvenile authors can comfortably take sides, presenting the rebels simply as "our side" and exploiting patriotic sentiment in the service of adventure or pedagogy.

Now the Colliers … have the nerve to ask us whether, had we been around in '76, we might not have thrown in our lot with the Tories. It's a presumptuous, downright cheeky question. But Tim's experiences really are enough to make us wonder what we'd have done in his place.

From the book's first moment, when brother Sam shows up at the family's door dressed in his new Continental uniform …, Tim is caught between his hero worship...

(The entire section is 522 words.)