The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg is an entertaining adolescent novel that follows the adventures of Homer P. Figg as he tries to find his brother, who has joined with the Union forces in the Civil War. Homer travels from Maine all the way to Pennsylvania, and he ends up on the battlefield during the Battle of Gettysburg. He has amazing adventures along the way: he meets Quakers, members of the Underground Railroad, money scammers, Confederate army spies, carnival workers, and conscription agents. He gets kidnapped, works as a “pig boy” for a carnival, and bears the Union flag during the last moments of the Battle of Gettysburg. He rides in a hot-air balloon over battlefields, helps slaves escape in the Underground Railroad, and is imprisoned by Confederate officers. Throughout all of his adventures, Homer recounts his tale with a great sense of humor and demonstrates courage and insight along the way.
The story begins with Homer giving the readers some background information about him and his older brother, Harold. Their father died before Homer was born, and their mother died when Homer was just a little boy. After their mother’s death, Homer and Harold went to live with their uncle, Squinton Leach. Squinton is mean, cruel, and abusive. He practically starves the boys and forces them to do hard labor on the farm all day long. At the beginning of the story, Squint goes and fetches the local conscription agent (who recruits men to fight in the Civil War). Squint lies about Harold’s age, telling the officer that Harold is eighteen, the minimum age, when he is actually just seventeen. The conscription officer believes Squint, and Harold is taken away to join the Union army.
Harold is the only true family member Homer has known, and he is infuriated at the thought of Harold out fighting the war under an illegal ruse enacted by his evil uncle Squint. Squint locks Homer in the root cellar, but it does not take Homer long to escape; steal his mother’s horse, Bob; and head out of there, looking for his brother. Unfortunately, he is captured by two low-life characters named Stink and Smelt who are in the business of capturing runaway slaves and turning them in for a large reward. They have one slave in their possession, and they tie Homer right up with him, hoping Homer will get them a good reward too. However, they end up sending Homer down to the home of Jedediah Brewster, a devout Quaker who is rumored to be one of the main hubs of the Underground Railroad in the area. Stink and Smelt want Homer to find out where Jedediah is hiding all of the slaves. Homer goes to the house and is immediately taken in, bathed, and fed by the kind Jedediah; he is also shown where the slaves are taken. Such kindness touches Homer, and he decides not to help the devious Stink and Smelt. He returns to them and leads them to the wrong location, where the kidnapped slave hits them in the head, and Jedediah is able to tie them up.
Jedediah offers to take Homer in as his son, but Homer is anxious to find his brother, Harold. Jedediah recruits a young minister named Webster B. Willow to escort Homer on a ferry to New York, where it is rumored the new troops are stationed; he even gives Webster money to pay for Harold to be bought out of his service in the army. Unfortunately, on the ferry ride, Webster is conned out of his money and wits by a young couple; the woman pretends to be in love with Webster so she can marry him and steal his money. The couple locks Homer up in with the pigs below deck.
When Homer is taken out of the ship, he is still in the pigpen, and everyone calls him the “pig boy.” A travelling carnival man, who calls himself Professor...
(The entire section is 1,017 words.)