Across Five Aprils Essay, Research Paper
Across Five Aprils
This Newberry award nominated book, written by Irene Hunt, tells the story of the “home life” of her grandfather, Jethro, during the Civil War. Not only does it give a sense of what it is like to be in the war but also it really tells you exactly what the men leave behind. Jethro is forced to make hard decisions, and face many hardships a boy his age shouldn’t have to undergo. This is an admirable historical fiction book that leaves it up to the reader to decide if being at home was the superior choice or if being a soldier in the war was.
The setting of this book was especially essential to the plot. The story takes place in Southern Illinois during the American Civil War, from April of 1861 to April of 1865, hence the title Across Five Aprils. These Illinoisans were a scattered group of people basically made up of women, men, and children who moved there from the south. This created a lot of controversy when the Confederate states secede from the Union. Because of their upbringing many families had fathers fighting sons and brother’s fighting brothers. The hostility in the towns in Illinois made even the best of friends become the worst of enemies.
Characters also play a very important role in this book. Jethro Creighton is the main character in the novel. He is the youngest in his family, a mere nine years old. He was an intelligent boy who enjoyed reading and liked school very much. This probably had something to do with the fact that Shadrach Yale taught his class.
Mr. Yale Moved to Illinois from Philadelphia. Jethro listened to everything Shad taught and told him. Shad admired Jethro’s spirit and pleasure in learning. Although Shad liked Jethro’s company, he loved Jenny’s even more.
Jenny was Jethro’s sister. She helped Jethro in the fields, and made dinner. Her and Jethro shared basically everything including laughter. The only thing Jenny did not want to share was her letters from Shadrach. Shad and Jenny were in love, and all Jethro had to do was mention Mr. Yale’s name and Jenny would blush.
Although Jethro knew he could talk to Jenny about anything, he preferred confiding in his brother Bill. Bill, like Jethro, liked school and had a love for learning. He took the time and thought all his decisions out carefully. He always did what he thought was right. Even if that meant that he would fight against Shad, his cousin, and even his brothers in the American Civil War. He supported the Confederate states proudly.
This book is about how a family adjusts and basically survives during the Civil War. Jethro, who is used to the company of his brothers and his cousin in the field, takes on most of the chores around the house and the farming. All in all you could say that his family was a Union supporter with the exception of Bill, who fought for the Confederacy. Tom, Eb, Shad, and Jim all leave and fight for the Union. Even though more family members are on the northern side, the people in the town consider everyone in the Creighton family copperheads. They go as far as burning their barn down, and dumping oil in there well. The rest of the story reveals who lives, who dies, and how the family deals with each difficulty.
The way Irene wrote the book was very appealing and it added to the story’s historical significance. She wrote it in the slang type of dialect that they used in that time and place. She went on to include a letter that Jethro wrote the president, and the actual letter that Abraham Lincoln wrote back.
There were two major purposes that were made obvious while reading this book. The first, and most important theme was one stating that families should stick together. This theme was brought out several times during the story. The most obvious was when Jethro first went to town and he was being told that his family was nothing more then copperheads because of the choice only one of his brothers had made. Paraphrasing Jethro said something to the affect of Bill is my brother; I don’t know where he is or what side, if any, he is fighting for but nothing will change the fact that he is my brother and I support him in his every decision. Basically the other purpose was to tell her grandfathers story.
Across Five Aprils is a different twist on war a story. It is a good book that teaches values that are important even in today’s society. It asks the question again and again is war really worth it?