My Brother Sam is Dead: Summary & Characters

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

'My Brother Sam is Dead' is the story of the Meeker family, and their life during the Revolutionary War. This lesson provides a summary on the story and gives insight on the characters.

The Simple Life

The Meeker family lives in Redding, CT, during the beginning of the Revolutionary War. The Revolutionary War was the war where Americans were fighting to gain autonomy from England. They are a family of four, with two kids (Tim and Sam) and their parents, Eliphalet and Susannah. Eliphalet, or ''Life,'' as he is called, is a hard worker, and owns a tavern with his wife Susannah. Susannah is a good mom who worries and tries to coddle her children. Tim is the novel's voice, and everything is seen through his eyes. He is a young teen during the novel and watches as his family changes from a happy small-town family to one ravaged by war.

Sam

At the beginning of the novel, we see Sam, Tim's older brother, and his desire to fight for America against the rule of England. Sam gets into a large argument with his father because of this. Their father supports England, and is what is called a Tory because of his support. However, their father's biggest disgust is with war itself; he hates what it does to people and the strife it brings to countries. Sam does not hear his father's warnings about the war and takes off with his dad's gun to join up to be a soldier. Because of the choice his brother has made, Tim struggles in the novel to decide which side is better, England or America. However, Tim's age and their home being relatively away from the fighting keep him from making any decisions for a good portion of the novel.

War Shows its Ugly Face

Tim starts trying to find things that he can do for the war as well; however, it is not because he is a patriot. Instead, he wants to get involved so he will have stories to tell too. He wants to be able to compare with his brother, and show that he is brave as well. However, his jealousy is curtailed when he has to deal with the real issues of war. He and his father take a trip to sell cattle, but when they are on their way back home, his father his kidnapped by a group of cowboys. Tim makes his way home alone, leaving just him and his mother alone at the farm.

As time passes they find out that another man they know, a friend called Jerry, was also captured, and that both Jerry and Tim's father are on a prison ship. Unfortunately, the men die on the ship, leaving Tim and his mother to fend for themselves.

The challenges become worse. Tim sees violence and death up close when he witnesses a battle between the British soldiers and some rebels. This is a life-changing moment for him, and he realizes he is similar to his father--he hates war. He realizes he doesn't like either side of the fight; they are both as violent as the other.

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