My Brother Sam Is Dead
by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
Analysis: Plot Analysis
Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.
Exposition (Initial Situation)
War is A-Brewin'
Our main man Tim gets the shock of his life: his big bro announces he's joining up with the Patriots. That's right, Sam is going to fight against the British in the American Revolutionary War. And get this: Papa Meeker is loyal to England, not the Colonies. For now, Tim wants to stay out of this big ol' mess, but we can tell tough times are ahead.
Rising Action (Conflict, Complication)
To Be a Patriot or To Be a Loyalist: That is the Question
Tim can't deny the war any longer. With a Loyalist dad supporting England and a Patriot brother supporting the American colonies, Tim has a big conflict on his hands: which side should he support? Does he go along with his dad or join up with his brother? For Tim, these questions don't have easy answers.
Climax (Crisis, Turning Point)
And Tim Chooses…No One!
When British troops roll into Tim's town of Redding, things get really ugly. Soon after, Tim gets reunited with Sam. With all this action, Tim has to decide which side he supports. The whole book has been leading up to this big decision, and it looks like Tim is chucking both teams in the can. Instead of taking sides, he's going anti-war.
Now this War is Super Duper Personal
When Sam is falsely accused of cow-stealing, Tim tries to help his brother out. He and his mom try everything they can think of to save Sammy. If this part of the plot doesn't feel like it's winding down, that's because it's not. The suspense just keeps going right to the very end.
That Guy in the Title Dies
Tim just can't prove his brother innocent. So one horrible day, Sam is executed. The ending at least resolves the suspense, since we finally find out how poor Sammy dies—but we can't say we're happy about it.