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  • 1

    When Grandma Wolf moves in, things change for the worse because of her cruelty. Why does Tommy blame himself and not her for the family's unhappiness?

    Tommo blames himself for his father's death and because of that he sees every negative thing that happens to his family as a result of this. The cottage they live in is a tied cottage, which means that it is tied to his late father's job. To keep the cottage, Tommo's mother is forced into servitude caring for the local landowner's wife which will allow them to pay to stay in the house. This would not have happened had Tommo's dad still been alive and he sees this as his fault. Grandma Wolf arrived to look after the boys whilst their mother is at work and she is very mean and exceptionally cruel. Because he feels responsible for the accident that killed his father, Tommo feels responsible for everything that happens as a result of his death, almost by default.

  • 2

    How does the reader learn that Tommo is a soldier in World War I?

    The first time Tommo refers to his current situation he tells us that he has seen larks over no-man's land. Since this is also the first time he has referred to his present and not his past we realize that he must be serving in World War I and that he must be fighting in the trenches of France. We also realize that his recollections of his childhood are his way of trying to put himself mentally back home, even if he cannot put himself there physically, and that his precarious situation is what precipitated his thinking about the existence of Heaven. The next reference to his being a soldier is of seeing the new moon and hoping that those back home are seeing the same moon, again showing that he is overseas and missing his family.

  • 3

    Tommo reveals in the present that he has turned down offers of help from the other soldiers and from the padre. What does this suggest has happened to him?

    The author does not tell us why Tommo is one but the fact that he has need of a paste suggests that he is either extremely badly wounded and in need of prayers, or in some kind of trouble and imprisoned. The help from the other soldiers could be giving evidence in his favor, or speaking up for him at a Court Martial. The Padre could also be speaking up for him, but could equally be offering to counsel h about impending death or offering to be with him at the end. The fact that he needs support from his fellow soldiers and the padre suggests that although we do not yet know what his predicament is, we can deduce that it is not a good one.

  • 4

    The young men in Tommo's regiment are barely more than boys. Should any of them have been sentenced to death for cowardice?

    The soldiers were not career soldiers and most had been "called up" from their normal existence. Tommo describes a pretty inadequate training period and from the getgo the supplies that the men were given were woefully inadequate too. To expect soldier-level bravery from young boys who had never faced any danger and who were clearly terrified was unreasonable. Being frightened is not the same as being a coward. It is also generally something a person cannot do anything about; sometimes fear is incapacitating no matter how much the person who is incapacitated might want to keep going, show bravery, be heroic. To condemn a seventeen year old to death for being terrified in the face of gunfire and living in the mud and the trenches is to take the human element out of warfare and also to expect boys to become men overnight when they do not know how to be yet.

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