The family bond between brothers drives the entire storyline. Homer’s quest to find his brother, Harold, is driven by his love. Because Homer and his brother lost their parents at a young age, they could only rely on each other. Even though Homer never knew his mother, Harold does a good job teaching him about her values and principles, and Homer refers to his parents often throughout the book. In this book, family has close associations with kindness and love; even though their uncle, Squint, is technically their family, they have no connection to him, and his cruelty prevents them from loving him as a family member. On the other hand, Jedediah Brewster, the kindly Quaker who adopts Harold and Homer, plays the role of father and protector better than their uncle ever did. Family encompasses people who love you and take care of you, taking your best interest into their hearts. The ties that bind families together are strong enough to hold against trial, tragedy, hardship, and other obstacles; Homer’s journey demonstrates this.
The novel is set during the American Civil War, and Homer sees the varied impacts of the war everywhere he goes. He sees the hardship and peril the slaves undergo to escape to freedom; he sees the farms left empty when soldiers leave home to fight; he experiences the fear and sorrow felt by family members when their relatives become soldiers; he sees the blood and carnage that accompany the actual fighting; and he sees the many positions people take—such as spying and conscripting young boys—on the sidelines of the battle itself. The last portion of the book covers the Battle of Gettysburg in great detail, emphasizing the vast amounts of death and wounded men who covered its fields by the end. Homer is right there, in the middle of the fighting, and gets to witness the injuries, the amputations by surgeons, the despair of the wounded, and the chaos of gun and cannon fire. As a young boy, Homer is dramatically affected by what he sees and horrified that Harold would want to be a part of it....
(The entire section is 855 words.)