My Brother Sam Is Dead
by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
You might not guess it from the title, but My Brother Sam Is Dead is all about Tim. He's not only our main character, but he's our narrator, too. That means that when we go on an adventure with Tim, we see everything from his perspective. And let's be honest: there's a war brewin', so that means there are plenty of adventures in store for our main man.
(P.S. To read more about Tim as a storyteller, pop on over to "Narrative Technique." We'll wait for you to get back, we promise.)
Indecisive Timmy: Picking Teams Just Isn't His Thing
For most of the book, Tim wants to steer clear of all this war mumbo-jumbo. He doesn't want to pick between being a Patriot (i.e, supporting freedom for the colonies) and being a Tory (i.e., being loyal to England). (Itching to read more about Tim's indecisiveness? Head on over to the "Patriotism" theme.) In fact, Timmy is so indecisive that every time someone asks him what side he's on, he doesn't have an answer.
Case in point: take a look at what happens when Betsy asks Tim to pick a side:
Then Betsy Read said, "Timmy are you on your father's side or Sam's?"
I wished she hadn't asked me that question. I didn't want to answer it; in fact, I didn't know how to answer it. (2.40-41)
Poor Tom is in a serious bind. Not only does he have to choose between being a Patriot and being a Tory, but he also has to choose between his dad and big bro. Did you notice how Betsy doesn't ask Tim which side of the war he's on? Instead, she asks which family member he's supporting. Sheesh. Sounds like the worst decision to have to make in the history of decision-making.
Tim struggles with this decision for most of the novel. Unfortunately for our guy, no one's written a handy book Tim can use here. Although we're pretty sure he'd appreciate some sort of Guide to Choosing Sides Between Your Papa and Your Brother right about now.
What do you think about Timmy's indecisiveness? Do you think he picks a side as the book goes on? Or does he stay on the fence?
Jealous Timmy: How Come Sam Gets to Have All the Fun?
It has to be said: Tim can be pretty jealous of Sam. Sure, it's understandable. Sam is off at war, fighting for something he believes in. And even though half the town thinks Sam is nuts (including his own father), Tim still thinks there's a good deal of glory in what Sam's up to. And he wants to get in on that glory, too.
For instance, check out what Tim has to say about delivering letters for Mr. Heron. Even though Mr. Meeker said a big N-O to the idea, Tim still wants to do it. And is it because Tim wants to do his part for the war? Nope. For young Tim, it's all about being a bit more like Sam:
He'd been having all the adventures, he was going to come home with terrific stories about being in the army and fighting and all that, and I wanted to have something to tell, too. Why should he have all the glory? Why shouldn't I have some, too? I wanted him to respect me and be proud of me and not think of me as just his little brother anymore. I couldn't score telling points in debates the way he did, but I could be just as brave as he was and do daring things, too. (5.54)
Tim definitely wants to be like his big bro. But it sounds to us like Tim is still a bit naïve, don't you think? Check out how he focuses on "glory" and "terrific stories." It seems like he hasn't realized just how horrific this war is going to be. And we have a feeling that when he does, he's not going to be quite so jealous of Sam anymore.
What do you think about how Tim's attitude towards Sam changes throughout the novel? Do you think he grows up to be like his big bro?
We don't get to know sixty-four-year-old Tim very well, but just the fact that he exists is kind of a big deal. Why? Because it makes us realize that this whole thing was written with some major hindsight.
How would the story be different if a teenage Tim had written it? Or if it had been written right after the war ended? Or even during the war? Has time given Tim some time to reflect on his choices?
All we're saying is, while we don't know much about senior citizen Tim, everything we know about young Tim is from the older version's perspective—so he's kind of a VIP in our minds.Tim Meeker's Timeline