Shades of Gray

by Carolyn Reeder

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Student Question

In Shades of Gray, where was William Page born?

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William Page was born in Virginia.

William is from the Shenandoah Valley, in Winchester, Virginia. After his parents are killed in the war, he goes to live with his aunt and uncle in Piedmont.

The mill wasn’t grinding, so food must be as scarce in the Virginia Piedmont as it was in the Shenandoah Valley. Another reason his aunt’s family would probably be as sorry to see him as he would be to see them. (Ch. 1)

Will does not want to go live with his aunt and uncle because he considers them traitors. They did not fight in the war on either side, and even though his uncle did not help the Yankees fight, Will considers that just as bad. Will cannot forget. His father and brother were killed by Northern soldiers and his other siblings died of illness. Eventually his mother succumbed to her grief and died of a long illness, leaving Will alone.

Will has never met his aunt, uncle, or cousin. He does not want to stay with them. Doc Martin explains to Will that he is better off with his aunt and uncle anyway.

“There’s nothing I’d like better than to have you with me in Winchester. But even if your mother hadn’t left that letter, it wouldn’t have worked out. A bachelor doctor who’s out on calls at all hours and away half the night on confinements can’t provide the kind of home a boy needs.” (Ch. 1)

Will’s situation is an example of the tragedy of the Civil War. Even though his uncle did not fight for the other side as a traitor, Will blames him for not fighting. He gets upset when the Confederate soldiers are called “rebels.” Eventually, he comes to better understand and appreciate his uncle and realize that war is more complicated than he ever realized.

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