My Brother Sam is Dead Summary
Brother Sam is Dead is told in the first person by Tim Meeker.
It recounts the hardships endured by Tim and his family during
the Revolutionary War. When Tim's older brother Sam joins
the rebel forces, it impacts the rest of his family who wish
to remain neutral and/or avoid war with England. Tim's family
is Anglican and thus loyal to the Church of England; a split
with England would greatly affect them.
Meeker is a metaphoric symbol of one third of the American
population during the war. He portrays the American that is
uncertain which side is right and does not wish to choose
a side until forced to, sometimes referred to as a "fence-sitter".
Sam and Life are examples of the other two thirds: the Rebel/Patriot
and the Tory/Loyalist.
Tim Meeker we learn of the issues, the concerns and the conflicts
of the rebellion on a personal level. Each chapter touches
on a number of topics and issues that provide readers with
a better understanding of the affects the American Revolution
had on individuals, their families, their churches, their
towns, their neighbors...in short, it allows readers to see
the war from the position of those that lived through it.
This is one of the greatest strengths of the novel; it quietly
weaves all of the topics and issues of the early years of
the American Revolution into a tragic story of a 10 year old
boy’s role in a war he doesn't understand.
Brother Sam is Dead begins in April 1775 and ends in February
1779...a very volatile period of the American Revolution as
it was not clear which side would win the war. Many were either
still confused about the issues or unwilling to solidify a
position on the issues. As the story unfolds the consequences
of the war prove devastating to the Meeker family as the rebelliousness
of Tim’s brother, Sam, and the pacifist postion taken by Tim’s
father, Life, result in the ironic deaths of both, symbolizing
the atrocities and unfairness of war.
novel highlights many of the the problems and events that
impacted towns like Redding, CT. Several of these topics are:
stay neutral while living in a town that everyone assumes
is a loyalist settlement. Redding's Anglican
church leader and its members preferred not to rebel from
England. This was well known across the State and resulted
in Redding Ridge being labeled as an area heavily settled
Issues-The Meeker's own a tavern/store, and keeping
it running is hard work. Even prior to the Revolution,
to make money, each year Tim's Father and brother Sam
would travel to New York State to sell cattle they received
from people who owed them money. During the war it becomes
even more difficult as paper money and commissionary notes
destroy local economies and businesses.
Since Sam has sided with the rebels and wasn't there,
Tim's responsibilities have increased ten-fold. Jobs Tim
and Sam used to share all now fall on Tim's shoulders.
Father (Life) takes Tim on his yearly cattle run to New
York. They have to travel without a Brown
Bess (musket/gun used for protection), which Sam had
recently stolen. Life is captured on their return trip,
leaving Tim to take care of his mother and himself for
the rest of the novel. Tim is forced to grow up over night
seeing he is now the man of the house, with his father
in prison and Sam fighting with the patriots.
of Safety- These committees were formed early in the war
to disarm people who could potentially give aid to the
British. Life is an Anglican and thus seen as a Loyalist/Tory,
by the local Committee of Safety which comes to the Meeker
Tavern to disarm him. When Life tells them his son has
sided with the Patriots and taken his gun, they initially
don't believe him and rough him up.
and Skinners- Life is captured on their way back to
Redding on their cattle run by cowboys. Cowboys and skinners
were groups of raiders who harassed and plundered the
rural districts of the boundary between American and British
forces in Westchester County, New York. Westchester County,
was the so-called "Neutral Ground" seeing the British
were in the Bronx and the Americans in Peekskill, New
march though Redding and capture several Patriots
there on their way to Danbury, CT to destroy the rebels/Patriot's
provisions of war which were being stored there. The Patriot
soldiers arrive in Redding in pursuit of the British and
Sam is with them so he gets to see his mother and Tim
Encampments- General Israel Putnam's division of the
Continental Army encamped at Redding in the winter of
1778-1779 and Sam Meeker is a soldier in one of Putnam’s
camps. One evening, Sam slips away from camp and returns
home to spend time with his family. While they discuss
the war and related topics, Sam hears commotion outside…Patriot
soldiers are attempting to steal their cattle! When Sam
intervenes he is out numbered and beaten. Back at camp
he is falsely accused of and court-martialed for deserting
camp and stealing cattle. General Putnam having long dealt
with ill-equipped troops, deserters and traitors, feels
he needs to set an example in order to maintain discipline
amongst his army. Sam, unfortunately, becomes one of the
two examples that winter, and is executed.
War- Tim's Mother goes a little crazy due to the stress
of losing her husband and son to a war she doesn't support.
Tim lives to be very old. He had a wife, children, even
grandchildren. But his mother never recovers from Life
and Sam's deaths.
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Brother Sam Is Dead (1974) is a young adult novel by James
Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier. It was a Newbery
Honor book that was also named a Notable Children's Book by
the American Library Association and nominated for a National
Book Award in 1975. (from http://en.wikipedia.org)
authors employ an interpretative storyline, focused on the
hardships faced by an Anglican family whose eldest son has
run away to join the Patriot troops, to portray the American
Revolution as a civil war. Christopher Collier is a retired
American history teacher and the emeritus Connecticut State
Historian; James Lincoln Collier was a journalist and well-regarded
author of children’s books.
My Brother Sam
is Dead Summary and Analysis
Collier Brothers (James and Christopher) were personifying
the War of Independence in writing this novel and they did
a very good job of it. Their choice of characters, story line
and setting create a captivating saga, rich with courage,
drama, and intrigue. "my brother Sam is dead" is a classic,
well deserving of the awards and accolades it has received.
of the novel's content, most notably an execution and a beheading,
it has been the frequent target of censors and appears on
the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently
Challenged Books of 1990-2000 at number twelve. Learn
why My Brother Sam is Dead is challenged.