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Sam Essay Essay, Research Paper

My Brother Sam is Dead was written by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier in 1974. The action takes place in Redding, Connecticut in 1776 during the Revolutionary War. In this novel, the main characters are the Meeker family: Life, Susannah, Tim, and Sam. Once a whole family, war ripped them apart. The important principles guiding these people profoundly affected how they acted in the story and helped determine the decisions they made throughout the novel. It is evident that certain principles shape their character. This notion reflects on our own world because principles and strong values shape and develop our character. My Brother Sam is Dead shows how character traits shaped by principles are reflected in our decisions and actions.

Life Meeker was the father of Sam and Tim, and the husband of Susannah. He was a real Tory and believed that there was no need for war against the British. “‘God meant children to obey their fathers, he meant mean to obey their kings.’”(pg. 7) Life Meeker didn’t want for Sam to be involved in the war because he knew things that Sam didn’t about the realities of war.

“Have you ever seen a dear friend lying in the grass with the top of his skull off and his brains sliding out of them like wet oats? Have you ever looked into the eyes of a man with his throat cut and the blood pouring out between his fingers, knowing that there was nothing he could do, in five minutes he would e dead, yet still trying to beg for grace and not being able because his windpipe was cut in two? Have you ever heard a man shriek when he felt a bayonet go through the middle of his back? I have Sam, I have. I was at Louisbourg the year before you were born. Oh, it was a great victory. They celebrated it with bonfires all over the colonies. And I carried my best friend’s body back to his mother-sewed up in a sack. Do you want to come home that way? Do you think I want to hear a wagon draw up one summer’s morning and go out to find you stiff and bloody and your eyes staring blank at the sky? Sam, it isn’t worth it.” (pg. 21)

He risked his relationship with his son for the rest of their lives.

Susannah Meeker, Life’s wife and the mother of Tim and Sam also had strong principles. She loved her sons and demonstrated many times in the book that she would do almost anything for them. Her most basic principle and desire was to keep her sons home and protected. “‘No, no,’ she said. ‘Not my boy. You don’t involve any more Meekers in this terrible war. Send your own child out to play soldier if you want, Stephen Betts, but no more of mine.’” As she was sticking up for her principle, she was risking imprisonment or trouble because she was not supposed to have a say in who went to war or not. When Sam went to war against his parents’ wishes, Mrs. Meeker always tried to stay in touch with him to know how he was doing and where he was. Mr. Meeker didn’t agree with this, but he eventually let her write to Sam. This showed her compassion and love for her sons. “‘I’m going to write to him, Life. He must surely be worried that we’re all right.’”(pg. 88) Mrs. Meeker showed how desperately she wanted to keep her sons home and protected from the war with Sam Meeker.

Sam Meeker believed that America should be an independent and free nation. His principle was to stand up with the Rebels and fight against the British. He said that his country’s freedom came first if a choice were to be made between home and family, and war. Sam believed this to be so important that he was willing to risk his life to stand up for America. “‘ Either you live up to your principles or you don’t and maybe you have to take a chance on getting killed’”(pg. 35) When Sam went back to see his family, he only had two months left in the army, but he wanted to re-enlist.

“‘When is your enlistment up, Sam?’

He frowned. ‘In two months. But I’m going to re-enlist.’

‘No, Sam. You have to come home.’

‘Mother,’ I said, ‘don’t argue with him. You can’t make him change his mind.’ ‘He’s just being stubborn,’ she said.

‘God, Mother,’ he said, ‘I came to pay a visit and first Tim badgered me about Father and now you’re badgering me about coming home. I can’t come home until it’s over. It’s my duty to stay and fight.’

‘ You have a duty to your family, too.’

‘My duty to my country comes first. Now please everybody stop arguing with me.’

‘And get killed in the meantime,’ she said.

‘Maybe,’ he said.

We were quiet for a moment. Then he said, ‘we’ve made a promise, a group, a group of us, not to quit until the Redcoats are beaten. We’ve made a pledge to each other.’” (pg. 161)

Tim Meeker was Sam’s younger brother and always seemed to be stuck in the middle of everything. Sometimes he was on his father’s side, “We’re mostly Tories here. Suddenly I realized that I was.” (pg. 139) And at other times he finds himself on his brother’s side, “I didn’t feel much like being a Tory anymore.” (pg. 145) Although he had many contradicting ideas, Tim did have a guiding principle and that principle was to conserve his family. He didn’t want it to fall apart. He didn’t want the war breaking his family apart. At one point, Tim was presented with a problem about whether he should go save his father from the cowboys or whether he should go home. He was tempted to go find his father to keep his family together, but then decided against it. “The most daring thing to do would be to track down father, which wouldn’t be too hard in the snow, and rescue him. That would be the daring thing all right: I didn’t have a gun, didn’t have a sword or anything but a knife and a stick. Then it came to me that even though rescuing Father was the daring thing to do, it wasn’t the smartest thing.” In another episode, Tim nearly risked his life by going into the Rebel encampment to try to save Sam, but unfortunately did not succeed.

“Mother didn’t lift her eyes from the flames snapping over the logs. ‘Going to get yourself killed, son?’ ‘I’m going to save my brother.’ I said(pg. 201)………I jerked to a stop. ‘Sam,’ I shouted, and ‘Sam,” again as loud as I could. The guard lunged toward me. I lifted the bayonet ant threw it into the air. It flashed in the moonlight, spinning lazily over and over and fell into the stockade. Then I turned and began racing as fast as I could across the snow for safety of the boulders on the hillside. I had gone only about three paces when the musket went off with a terrific roar. I felt something tug at my shoulder-no more than a tug-and I dashed onto the slope…” (pg. 205)

All of the Meekers had principles that they lived up to. Some of them were similar and others very different. These principles helped shaped their actions in the story. “…It’s the principle.”(pg.21) Although these characters had different guiding principles, they all had something in common; they had to sacrifice something, whether it was risking their life or their standing in society. In the world today, people have to make sacrifices to live up to their principles. Following our principles is sometimes hard but that is what shapes our character in positive ways. Such principles and the course of actions we take are what make us unique and strong as individuals. People who are known to act without principles or integrity are not respected members of society.


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