Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 202
Based on an actual historical incident, The Matchlock Gun is a thrilling adventure story about self-preservation and the protection of loved ones. Set during the French and Indian War, which pitted the French and the Native Americans against the British government and settlers, the story provides a glimpse of American history from the perspective of a Dutch-American family living in the wilderness of newly settled New York State. Unlike a standard historical account of the war, Edmonds's story does not provide battle statistics or list the challenges facing settlers, but rather brings to life one gripping episode as experienced by a peaceful, loving family. From their isolated home amidst the untamed fields and woods, Teunis Van Alstyne and his gentle wife, Gertrude, see the complex war only as a simple and immediate menace to their security. Edmonds builds his story on the contrast between the warmth and love inside the household and the danger lurking outside. He creates suspense as he develops the characters of Gertrude, the concerned mother protecting her children in the absence of her husband; ten-year-old Edward, who rises to adult challenges to help his mother; and sixyear- old Trudy, unable to conceive of the threat to her family.