Free Study Guide for Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt-Book Summary|
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES
John’s wife, Nancy, comes out with fresh baked bread. They sit together and talk about the beauty of April, then the sadness of the war, and finally about the privacy of Jenny’s letter. Then Jethro finishes his work and goes home exhausted. Jenny helps him with the horses, and later that night, she offers to let Jethro read Shadrach’s letter. He tells her he understands that some of the letter is intended just for Jenny and that he does not want to read it.
In the middle of the night they hear men on horseback approaching the house. The men shout things against Matt and Bill Creighton and the Copperheads [Northerners that support the South]. A threatening bundle with a note is left at the front gate. Jethro brings it in. It reads, “Theres trubel fer fokes that stands up fer there reb lovin sons.” Every night for the rest of that month, one or another of Matt’s neighbors sit with a gun outside the Creighton home. When the fear passes, they relax their watch. That is when the barn is set on fire. The neighbors come to prevent the fire from spreading to the cabin, but the barn cannot be saved. Jethro gets water from the well to pour on the embers and finds that the well has been poisoned with coal oil.
The second April of the story finds a completely different Jethro. He has full adult responsibility and now acts as the man of the house. His conversations about the war are intelligent and serious, a sharp contrast to his former idea of a war with easy victories and horses on parade. He points out to Jenny that the newspaper definition of a “victory” can mean anything even slightly above total defeat. Along with Ed Turner, Jethro sees that public opinion is easily swayed for or against whichever general is victorious at the time.
The themes of the bonds of family and the importance of justice and forgiveness are artfully illustrated in this chapter by the relationship that has developed between Jethro and Jenny. Side by side they keep the farm running while sharing their hopes and fears. Jenny’s offering of Shad’s letter and Jethro’s declining to read it, and forgiving Jenny, bridges the age difference between them and affirms Jethro’s position as a man.
The chapter also continues the mechanism of having the events surrounding the war drive the action of the story. The interactions between the characters revolve around the turmoil in the community as a reaction to the war. Hunt accurately describes how average people were incited to cruel vengeance, especially in the Midwest and states that bordered between North and South, where there were differing loyalties. The battle at Pittsburgh Landing [Shiloh] is historically documented just as Ed Turner and Jethro describe it. It is also accurate that Grant’s popularity and perceived worth were wrongfully reduced by this battle, a point Jethro makes to Jenny. Thus, the war moves the dialog.
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Cassie, Donna L.. "TheBestNotes on Across Five Aprils".
. 09 May 2017