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Free Study Guide-Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt-Free Online Book Notes
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CHAPTER 6

Summary

Matt is “afeared” about what happened to Jethro the night before and wants to go into town to talk with the other men. He and Ellen appreciate what Dave Burdow has done for them and want to thank him. On his way out, Matt suffers a debilitating heart attack.

Jethro takes over the farm work and even plows John’s place. While he is in the fields, Ed Turner, a neighbor and friend of Matt’s, tells Jethro that he has read news of the battle of Pittsburgh Landing where Grant was attacked by surprise. Over twenty thousand soldiers were killed. Jethro and Ed agree that it is best not to discuss news of the war with Ellen and Matt until they hear from their boys. Ed realizes that Jethro is doing the work that it took six people to do the year before and offers to send over some help.

When Jenny finishes her housework she too works in the fields. She and Jethro work side by side discussing the war. They are concerned about “the boys - and maybe Bill on the other side”. Ed Turner’s oldest son comes over to help now and then, but Jethro prefers working along side Jenny. Their father, quietly and uncharacteristically, praises them.

Jenny receives a letter from Shadrach, which she reads privately in her room. Jethro is annoyed that he is not allowed to pore over Shad’s words himself. Jenny reads only selected passages aloud, blushing at the paragraphs in between. This enrages Jethro and he goes to John’s place to work off his anger. He calms himself by focusing on bettering his English, which he has been studying in Ross Milton’s book.

John’s wife, Nancy, comes out with fresh baked bread. They sit together and talk about the beauty of April, then the sadness of the war, and finally about the privacy of Jenny’s letter. Then Jethro finishes his work and goes home exhausted. Jenny helps him with the horses, and later that night, she offers to let Jethro read Shadrach’s letter. He tells her he understands that some of the letter is intended just for Jenny and that he does not want to read it.


In the middle of the night they hear men on horseback approaching the house. The men shout things against Matt and Bill Creighton and the Copperheads [Northerners that support the South]. A threatening bundle with a note is left at the front gate. Jethro brings it in. It reads, “Theres trubel fer fokes that stands up fer there reb lovin sons.” Every night for the rest of that month, one or another of Matt’s neighbors sit with a gun outside the Creighton home. When the fear passes, they relax their watch. That is when the barn is set on fire. The neighbors come to prevent the fire from spreading to the cabin, but the barn cannot be saved. Jethro gets water from the well to pour on the embers and finds that the well has been poisoned with coal oil.

Notes

The second April of the story finds a completely different Jethro. He has full adult responsibility and now acts as the man of the house. His conversations about the war are intelligent and serious, a sharp contrast to his former idea of a war with easy victories and horses on parade. He points out to Jenny that the newspaper definition of a “victory” can mean anything even slightly above total defeat. Along with Ed Turner, Jethro sees that public opinion is easily swayed for or against whichever general is victorious at the time.

The themes of the bonds of family and the importance of justice and forgiveness are artfully illustrated in this chapter by the relationship that has developed between Jethro and Jenny. Side by side they keep the farm running while sharing their hopes and fears. Jenny’s offering of Shad’s letter and Jethro’s declining to read it, and forgiving Jenny, bridges the age difference between them and affirms Jethro’s position as a man.

The chapter also continues the mechanism of having the events surrounding the war drive the action of the story. The interactions between the characters revolve around the turmoil in the community as a reaction to the war. Hunt accurately describes how average people were incited to cruel vengeance, especially in the Midwest and states that bordered between North and South, where there were differing loyalties. The battle at Pittsburgh Landing [Shiloh] is historically documented just as Ed Turner and Jethro describe it. It is also accurate that Grant’s popularity and perceived worth were wrongfully reduced by this battle, a point Jethro makes to Jenny. Thus, the war moves the dialog.

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