55 pages • 1 hour readIrene Hunt
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“It was a fine morning; many people around him were troubled, he knew, but that was a part of the adult world which he accepted as a matter of course. Adults were usually troubled.”
As a nine-year-old boy, Jethro in the beginning of the novel is still very naïve and immature. He recognizes the anxiety of the adults around him, but feels no desire to truly understand or engage with it because he sees it as irrelevant to himself. This early characterization of Jethro sets up his development throughout the story and contrasts with the Jethro we see at the end of the novel, who is older, less innocent, and more engaged with the adult world.
“I heered some of the big fellers talkin’ the other night, and they said the war, even if it comes, will be no more than a breafas’ spell. They said that soldiers up here kin take the South by the britches and make it holler ‘Nough’ quicker than it takes coffee to cool off fer swallerin’.”
In this line of dialogue, young Jethro is speaking to his mother, who is anxious about the war that is about to begin. As with the previous quote, this line demonstrates not only Jethro’s ignorance about the realities of war, but also the ignorance of Tom and Eb (the “big fellers”). The boys believe that the North will win easily and quickly, a statement which is steeped in ominous dramatic irony, as most readers will likely already be aware of how long and painful the Civil War actually was.
By Irene Hunt