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SYMBOLISM / MOTIFS / IMAGERY / SYMBOLS
Coffee is a symbol of adulthood. In Chapter 1 Jethro gets only a taste of coffee on his brother’s bread. This symbolizes that he is still a child, but is on the verge of maturing. 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 (Ch. 5), where he is expected to carry out a man’s responsibilities, Jenny makes him coffee. It is also coffee, or rather lack thereof, that makes Jethro’s mother extremely ill. Thus coffee is also a symbol of the painful side of adulthood.
The Creighton family Bible has a ledger in the front where they record births, deaths, and marriages. It is a concise record of the barest facts of the family’s life. In it Jethro also sees the history of his own life. He survived the disease that killed three of his brothers, he agonized over the death of his sister Mary, and finally, he is able to joyfully enter the date of Jenny’s marriage to Shad. The ledger symbolizes the family’s joys and sorrows, and their acceptance of their fate.
Seeing Both Sides
A motif, or idea, that recurs in Across Five Aprils is Hunt’s fairness in representing both sides of each issue that arises. Both sides of secession and slavery are discussed in a heated family argument with Cousin Wilse. Bill presents the wrongdoings of both the North and the South when he shares with Jethro that he is “scairt sometimes”. Contrasting public opinion about Lincoln’s words and decisions are offered, as are opinions of the various battles and generals. It is made clear that there is no absolute right or wrong, but that beliefs should be well grounded and firm, not wavering with mercurial public opinion.