My Brother Sam Is Dead
by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
By the time you finish My Brother Sam Is Dead, Tim feels like an old friend. And that's because, throughout the book, he talks as if we're chatting in the tavern over a cup of tea. He doesn't bother being formal. In fact, he likes to keep it simple and casual when he's telling his tale:
You know how it is when you get really interested in something, you forget what you're doing or even where you are. Well I was thinking so hard about going up to Tom Warrups' and finally seeing Sam after all this time that I kept forgetting it was a secret. (3.1)
You know what, Tim, we do know what that feels like.
Thanks to Tim's casual tone, he draws us right into the action. Check out how he uses the word "you" here, almost as if we're talking to him in person. We can't lie: we wouldn't mind sitting down for a cup of fish chowder with this chatty fellow.
But even though Tim's tone is casual, that doesn't mean he's apathetic (a.k.a. doesn't care). Actually, it's the exact opposite. Tim can be one curious guy, and his tone reflects his inquisitive attitude:
I was scared, but I was curious. I figured the officer had gone into the tavern to drink a mug of beer. I hadn't really seen many true soldiers, and I wondered what they were like. I wasn't sure if it was safe, though. What would they do if they knew that Father was against the war? Still I didn't want to be left out of the excitement. (4.5)
Tim's keeping it casual here, but he's also totally intrigued about what's happening inside the tavern. Take a look at how Tim asks a question in the middle of telling his story: "What would they do if they knew that Father was against the war?" Good question.
Tim's curious attitude might be contagious… don't you think?