Study Guide

The River Between Us Warfare

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We can't overestimate how huge the theme of warfare is in this book. The Civil War is the reason everything happens. It's why Calinda and Delphine go north, Noah loses his arm, Mama goes mad, and more. And, not only do we deal with the Civil War in the main story, we also deal with World War I in the frame story—the two wars help connect the two stories. Whoa.

War in The River Between Us is a personal thing that affects the lives of individuals. The book isn't concerned with vast armies waging epic battles but instead with two girls who are forced from their home, a boy who loses his arm, a sister who brings her wounded brother home from battle, a doctor who leaves civilian life to operate on a converted riverboat, and a mother who loses her mind with grief.

Questions About Warfare

  1. Illinois is typically thought of as a Union state. Why is most of Southern Illinois for the South?
  2. Does the war symbolize other issues the characters face? If so, how?
  3. How do different characters respond to the possibility, and then the reality, of war? What does this tell you about war as a theme in this book? Remember to give evidence from the text.
  4. Why doesn't Mama wait to find out who's in the coffin before she drowns herself? (Seriously—this one really bothers us.)

Chew on This

Tilly tells Howard her story in order to prepare him for the war that's about to come into his life.

Tilly experiences the war as a series of periods of waiting.

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