March Summary

Geraldine Brooks


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March Summary

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In March, Geraldine Brooks writes a novel about Captain March who assists his troops during the Civil War. Even though his country is filled with violence and terror, he tries to stay true to himself and the morals that he was brought up with. Through many hardships, Captain March tries to find peace through many of the battles he is faced with.

In part 1, the novel begins with Captain March attempting to save the life of an injured solider. During the course of war, the soldier falls into water and begins to panic because he cannot swim. March sees this and tries to help him, but the young man falls to his death in the rapid river. It turns out that this is just one instance in which March contemplates his life and how he has found himself with such negative occurrences.

March continues to progress in further battles in the Civil War and he begins to think about his past a great deal. He recalls that he started to make money as a teenager by selling products door-to-door. He also becomes friends with a wealthy man known as Mr. Clement. Eventually, March realizes that Mr. Clement has slaves and he falls in love with one of the individuals known as Grace. Once this takes place, March takes the time to teach the children of the slaves how to read and write, however once Clement figures out what is taking place, he banishes March. In turn, Clement chooses to punish Grace and ties her up, leaving her to fight for her life. March remembers this and he feels extremely guilty that he just left her there without going back to save her.

As March progresses in his life, it is found that he fully supports the movement to abolish slavery entirely. He helps the slaves in the Underground Railroad and he takes the time to support John Brown, a famous abolitionist. Once the Civil War begins, March tells himself that he cannot sit around while his fellow men fight for the country. In turn, he packs up his suitcase and prepares himself to serve in the army as part of the Union.

During his first post, he sees Grace again and they are reunited. However, the two individuals are caught as they are catching up with each other and March is forced to work with the slaves who have been freed among the cotton plantation. These slaves are working, but they are being paid for their labor. Even though the slaves are being paid, March still does not like the idea that they are working in terrible conditions without much compensation.

In part 2, March continues in battle again, but the rebels attack and March is severely injured. His wife, Marmee stays next to him and tries to support him while he is in the hospital, but she admits that the first time she sees him mangled in the hospital bed, she does not recognize him. In fact, she learns about March’s condition due to a telegraph and she begins to panic immediately

While March remains in the hospital, Marmee realizes that the conditions are not healthy since the beds are dirty and the food trays are not changed as often as they should be. The nurses do not treat the patients in a proper manner and March refuses to eat. Marmee sees this and attempts to feed her husband so that he can regain his strength. Eventually, March becomes extremely emotional that his wife is by her side and Marmee does not want to leave him. Before March goes back to sleep, Marmee asks him questions about Grace since she finds a locket with one strand of “negro hair” in his belongings.

Although Marmee stays by his side, she is very confused about the different occurrences. She even tells the reader that her husband has failed her because she is not sure what to make of the locket. She proceeds to write a letter to her children, but does not tell them about her personal feelings regarding her husband. In that same day, a letter is delivered to Marmee and she is invited by Mrs. Hale to stay that the estate where Grace is working, as per her request. Marmee finds this to be extremely considerate and takes them up on the offer.

Eventually, Marmee has to return home since her daughter, Beth catches scarlet fever.  March finds out the news about his daughter, but he decides not to return home. As time progresses, March continues to think about his life and is forced to return home. When he does, he is greeted by all four children, including Beth as they race to get attention from their father. The end of the novel is very somber because March feels as if he is not able to give the same amount of affection back to his family. He is convinced that he is forever haunted by ghosts of his past due to his actions throughout life.