Book Short Form

Book Short Form
1. Title and Author
Across Five Aprils, Irene Hunt
2. Analytic list of characters
 Jethro Creighton: He is the protagonist of this novel. He is nine years old at the
beginning of the story and so he is the youngest member of Creighton’s family. He is
his mother’s, Ellen Creighton, helper, but after all his brothers left for the war, and
especially his father’s, Matt Creighton, heart attack, he starts his accelerate transition
from a boy to a man. He is more educated than his mother and he likes to tell her about
things he learned from Shadrach at school. His He follows the political and strategic
aspects of the war through the newspaper stories, conversations, and the letters from his
brothers who are fighting. These same letters also involve Jethro in the emotional
aspects of the war as he reads of the horrors and tries to shield his family from the
devastation. Jethro is trying to keep his family from troubles after the Federal
Registrars have shown in their house looking for Eb, Jethro’s cousin who left with Tom
Creighton for the war. Then he met Eb when he was working at the field, and he was
worried about should he do for everyone’s best. He wanted to keep his family safe, but
he also wanted to help Eb. So, he wrote a letter to President Lincoln and he received
answer for it. After President Lincoln’s murder, Jethro’s hero, everything was
reasonless, useless, until the return of his friend and teacher Shadrach Yale, and his
dear sister Jenny, with who he has now deeper relationship than ever before. “How do I
know what I’d be like if I was sick and scared and hopeless; how does Ed Turner or Mr.
Milton or any man know that ain’t been there? We got to remember that Eb has been in
battles for two years; maybe he’s been a hero in them battles, and maybe to go on bein’
a hero in a war that has no end in sight is too much to ask.... Sure, deep down in me, I
want Eb to get out, to leave me free of feelin’ that I’m doin; wrong to give him grub, or
takin’ the risk of keepin’ it a secret that he’s here..” (pg 139 – 140)
 Jenny Creighton: She is Jethro’s fourteen years old sister and the only sibling at home
at the time after the war had begun. Jenny and Jethro are constant companions and
grow to know each other’s feelings as they work at the farm side by side and talk about
the war. She is in love with Shadrach, but her father is against their marriage because
he thinks she is still too young to be married. She always knows when Jethro has any
worries in his mind, but after he met Eb, he lied to her for the first time, but she didn’t
recognized. When she receives the letter from Shadrach’s aunt from Wahington D.C.
her father gives the permission to take her there to Ross Milton, a friend of their family.
She and Shadrach finally got married with her father’s permission. It has not been easy
times for her either during the war. Her mind was full of worries not just about
Shadrach but also about her brothers and cousin who were fighting. That is the sight of
her, returned from Washington D.C., that lifts the gloom from the April of Lincoln’s
death for Jethro. “I think about the battle too, Jeth – and the boys – and maybe Bill on
the other side. There’s lots of thoughts deep inside me; I ain’t jest as foolish as I seem
sometimes” (pg 95)
Shadrach Yale: He came to Jasper County to teach at the local school. He is both
Jethro’s teacher and close friend. He is twenty years old and is treated like family by
the Creighton’s. Shadrach encourages Jethro’s reading and speaking, and his
understanding of the war. He and Jethro spend an introspective night as “two
bachelors” prior to Shadrach leaving for the war. After he left Jenny and Jethro miss
him very bad, and all members of Creighton’s family are expecting to hear a word from
him. In all his letters he describes details from battlefields and details about the
generals’ strategies and also a lot about what does he think about all the generals.
Sometimes he is skeptical about their ideas and sometimes he agrees with them. He
gave some books to Jethro before he had left, so Jethro is able to study while Shadrach
is gone. He loves Jethro and he is in love with his sister Jenny, who comes to
Washington D.C. after he is seriously wounded and she nurses him back to health. He
loves Jenny so much that they got married in D.C. When they return back home they
offer to have Jethro to live with them, because Shadrach got a teaching job at a college
and so Jethro can continue his studies. “You have probably read of the disorganization
and discouragement of this army after General Pope’s defeat at Bull Run. It took only
the sight of this small, handsome man, McClellan, dashing up and down the lines on
horseback to restore confidence and courage...The men resent those of us who have not
known him long, the ones who are silent when they cheer. I believe that a word against
him might be as dangerous to the one who spoke it as a Rebel bullet would be.
(pg 124 – 125, from his letter)
Ross Milton: He is the editor of the local newspaper in Newton. He meets Jethro when
he is traveling to Newton alone for the first time. Like Shadrach Yale, Ross sees great
potential in Jethro. He gives him a book which he wrote himself and so Jethro can study
proper English from this book while his teacher is gone for the war. Over time he
becomes a comforting friend to the Creighton’s family and a source of knowledge and
perspective for Jethro. He even goes so far to accompany Jenny when she travels to
Washington D.C. to be at Shadrach’s side. When Ross returns from D.C. he shares with
Jethro the difficult concept that peace will not be a “perfect pearl”, but also shares his
confidence and that Lincoln will have the power to assure that “peace will not be a
mockery”. “Don’t expect peace to be a perfect pearl, Jeth. This is a land lying in
destruction, physical and spiritual. If the twisted railroads and the burned cities and the
fields covered with the bones of dead men – if that were all, we could soon rise out of
the destruction. But the hate that burns in old scars, and the thirst for revenge that has
distorted men until they should be in straitjackets rather than in high office – these are
the things that may make peace a sorry thing...” (pg 179)
3. Setting
Across Five Aprils is set in southern Illinois in Jasper County, mostly in Creighton’s family
house and their fields. The nearest town in Newton and some scenes are set there, as it is
the heart of the community where the Creighton’s family shops and gets their mail and
news. The story opens in the mid-April in 1861 and it goes all over the process of the
American Civil War, until the April 1865 when President Lincoln is murdered. Historically
most people in southern Illinois were in the side of the Union, but there ware also some
families, or just members in some families who rather supported the Confederacy. Like it
happened in Creighton’s family with Bill, he was the only one who was fighting on the
Confederacy side. The atmosphere changes little bit with every letter the family receive
from John or Shadrach. Sometimes it brings them bad news and so the atmosphere is
miserable but it also brings good news that they are all right so they are more cheerful.
“I’ve studied this thing, Jeth, and I’ve hurt over it. My heart ain’t in this war; I’ve told you
that. And while I say that the right ain’t all on the side of the North, I know jest as well it
ain’t all all on the side of South either. But if I hev to fight, I reckon it will be fer the
South.” (pg 45 – 46) This is Jetro’s brother’s Bill quote when he is saying goodbye to him
and he leaves for the war. Then, Jethro doesn’t have any brother at home and he misses him
very much.
4. List of major events, scenes, speeches/conversations
 Shadrach Yale goes to the town to get some news, while he is gone, Jethro’s cousin
Wilse Graham came to visit the family. When Shadrach comes back, he brings the
news that Confederates had fired on Fort Sumter. (pg 34)
 Jethro was all excited about the war, until his brothers, cousin and friend Shadrach are
leaving for the war. (pg 45) Jethro’s favorite brother Bill is leaving, but not for the
Union army. He is going to fight for the Confederacy.
 Jethro is asked to go to Newton, 15 miles away, to make some sales and purchases.
(pg 67 – 68) Jethro feels proud of his self that his parents trust him as far as they send
to him to the town. Jethro meets Ross Milton, editor of local newspaper, who defends
Jethro and takes him to a restaurant for dinner. Then their lasting friendship begins.
 At Jethro’s way home, Dave Burdow, the father of the boy who caused Jethro’s sister
Mary’s death, stops his wagon and climbs aboard. (pg 84) Jethro is frightened, but
Dave explains that he thinks the threatening man from the town is waiting along the
road. When the men appears and scared Jethro’s horses, Dave Burdow saves Jethro by
keeping control of the team. Then he allows Jethro to continue alone.
 When Jethro gets home, he tells his family what happened to him. His father wants to
go to the town to comfort the man threatened Jethro, but he has a heart attack on his
way out. (pg 91) After that all the work at the farm is mostly in Jethro’s and Jenny’s
 The Creightons find out that their son Tom was killed in a battle. (pg 109 – 110) Then
Ross Milton publishes a letter in his newspaper addressed to the man who had been
threatening the Creightons saying that the have suffered and lost enough and the men
involved are actually cowards who have done nothing for the cause of the war.
 After Jethro’s cousin Eb deserves from the war and he shows around the farm, only
Jethro knows about him and he doesn’t know what he should do about him. He decides
to write a letter to President Lincoln for an advice. And he receives an answer from
him. (pg 146) He tells Jethro that all deservers will be pardoned if they rejoin their
 The Union achieves victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. However, Shadrach is
wounded in a battle and he is in his aunt’s house in Washington D.C. His aunt writes a
letter to Jenny, and she gets a permission to go to nurse Shadrach. (pg 154) And then
later Matt, her father, gives Jenny permission to marry Shadrach.
 The Union army cut off Confederate supplies. The Union is victorious and the terms of
peace are signed. Ross Milton cautions Jethro that peace will not be “a perfect pearl”.
His words ring true when President Lincoln is assassinated. Jethro grieves until Jenny
and Shadrach return home. They offer to take Jethro to live with them and to study.
5. List of major short/significant quotations
 “I don’t know if anybody ever ‘wins’ the war, Jeth. I think that the beginnin’s of this
war has been fanned by hate till it’s a blaze now; and a blaze kin destroy him that
makes it and him that the fire was set to hurt. There oughtn’t to be a war; this war ought
never to ha’ bin.” (pg 41) Bill’s insight into war causes the internal struggle that will
eventually result in his fighting for the South. This quote prefaces his presentation to
Jethro of both sides of the conflict.
 “You kin count on me fer whatever help I kin spare, Jeth, and whatever counsel. You
air young fer what’s ahead – and I don’t like to see a boy made a man too soon. I
reckon, though, that it was writ you’d be the staff of yore pa’s old age.” (pg 92) This Eb
Turner’s quote shows how he feels about Jethto’s quick change from a boy to a man
with all the responsibilities about the farm. The other young males of the family have
gone to fight in the war and his father had had a heart attack...there will be no further
characterization of Jethro as a boy.
 “Why did it happen? Why – why – did it have to happen? ... Never before has a
president been killed; they’ve been looked after, watched over, and now this one, the
one that has carried the load of this war till he’s old and tired, the one that was my
friend – “ (pg 185) Jethro is mad and sad about President Lincoln’s murder. He felt
some kind of friendship between them since Lincoln sent him the answer to his letter.
All his and his family’s hopes lied in Abraham Lincoln. Until Jenny and Shadrach
return home, his life is without any reason for anything. His mind is full of hopes for
the future again when he goes to live with Jenny and Shadrach.
6. Social/Political/Philosophical agenda(s) of the author
Across Five Aprils has a very social and emotional message for its reader. It has been first
published in 1964, more than a hundred years after the American Civil war had started.
There is a feeling about gravity and melancholy that naturally accompanies the
unpredictability of war. This story of ten years old boy, however adds the feeling of
determination. The Civil War caused the death of his brother, his father have had heart
attack, and so he is supposed to take care about the farm at age eleven or so. It shows us not
only one perspective of the war and it provides us by all good hopeful feelings and also
thinking about the future as out of hope. But at the end of the story there is the greatest
hope for future to Jethro by going to live with Jenny and Shadrach and studying.
7. Structural strategies of the author
Across Five Aprils is narrated in third person and it is divided into twelve chapters and
Author’s Note. Each chapter includes different important event from Jetrho’s life while the
Civil War is enacted. Uniquely, the war drives the story rather than acts as a simple
backdrops as in other Civil war novels. Historic events are used as topics of conversation, a
basis for letters from soldiers, or as a background for the feelings and actions of the
8. Stylistic strategies of the author in Across Five Aprils
Certain characters, notably cousin Graham Wilse, are merely names, which function as a
voice to impart to the reader the historical foundation for the next events or the next
conversation. It is in keeping with Hunt’s focus on teaching history through literature that
the events of the war drive the plot. The use of dialect is not only to set the scene of the
rural South, but also to express the differing levels of ignorance of the character. Most of
the characters use less than perfect English. The author uses dialect spelling (example: yore
for your, git for get, etc.) and colloquialisms in the dialog to confer a homey accent.
9. Literary elements
 Symbolism
Sentiment: Jetrho’s transition from a child to a
man by using the symbolism of coffee
Example: “This need fer coffee is an evil hold
on me, Matt,” she told her husband on the
morning after the man used with a symbolism of
coffee last of the coffee grounds had been boiled
until they were worthless. “I’m goin’ to sufer it
out. I don’t want you to bring ary drop of it to
me even it you git hold of some; my body’s jest
got to learn.” She closed her eyes as the
beginning pangs of her ordeal pounded at her
temples. She could eat nothing all day. Matt sat
beside her, pressing hot wet clothes onto her
forehead. Jenny was sober as she went about her
work, and Jethro roamed about the barn woodlot
with deep trouble hounding him. Toward
evening Matt could stand it no longer. “Send the
boy down to Nancy’s and ask fer the loan of a
little coffee,” he told Jenny.
Function: Coffee is a symbol of adulthood. In
chapter 1, Jethro only gets a taste of coffee on
his brother’s bread. This symbolizes that he is
still a child. In chapter 2, when he feels upset
Jenny gives him milk, again symbolizing that he
is still a child. But before his trip to Newton in
chapter 5, where is he expected to carry out
man’s responsibilities, Jenny makes him coffee.
That is also coffee that makes his mother
extremely ill. Thus coffee is also a symbol of
the painful side of adulthood.
10. Point of view
Irene Hunt wanted the readers see both sides of issue that arises. Both sides of secession
and slavery are discussed in a heated family argument with cousin Wilse. It is made cleat
that there is no absolute right or wrong, but their beliefs should be well grounded and firm,
not wavering with mercurial public opinion. Though fiction, most events are based on
historic facts and/or the life of author’s grandfather who lived the real life story of Jetrho.
11. Analysis of significant critical problems
 The spring of ’62 the Creightons found out from their family’s friend’s son who was
also in the war, that their son Tom was killed in the battlefield at Pittsburg Landing. (pg
109 – 110).
 The war is still going on and on, with no identification of a victor or the end. By the end
of 1862, soldiers and citizens alike lost their faith. There are mass desertions, one
deserter being Jethro’s Cousin Eb Carron. Jethro brings him secretly food and blankets
(pg 138), but he can not figured out whether the right thing is to turn Eb in or bring him
home, putting the family at risk from the Federal Registrars.
 The winter of ’64 the family receives a letter from John, Jethro’s brother, saying that he
has seen Bill (pg172 – 173). Bill has been taken as a prisoner by John’s unit and upon
seeing each other; they are as brothers once more. Bill wants John to tell the family that
he was not at Pittsburg Landing where Tom was killed. It was not his bullet that shot
his brother.
12. Opening and Closing scenes
 Opening scene: In April 1861, Ellen Creighton and her nine years old son Jethro are
working the family farm in southern Illinois. Ellen is weighed down with worries about
the war. All people in country are wondering if Lincoln is going to declare the war.
Then, Shadrach Yale comes from the city with news that the Confederates have fired at
Fort Sumter.
 Closing scene: After President Lincoln’s murder, Jethro’s life is not how it used to
be...full of hope for the future. Jetrho is lying on the grass, when Shadrach and Jenny
return back home. They are talking for a while and then they go to see Jenny. Shadrach
told Jethro that he gets a teaching job in a city, so he and Jenny decided to take Jethro
with them, so he will be able to study.