Tommo is racked with guilt for his father’s death. This fuels his desire to make amends by going to war (to protect his mother’s interests and to keep Charlie company.)
“Big Joe always said hello, loudly, to everyone. It's how he was.”
Big Joe takes the world on face value and sees the good in everyone and everything. In this sense, he is the opposite of what the war represents, i.e. calculated evil and violence.
“Molly likes Big Joe. Now I know for sure that I will love her till the day I die.”
Tommo associates love of his family with romantic love. His family bonds are so strong that he could only love a girl who was able to accept his family.
“Then we were all singing together, and loudly in our defiance...”
The family is united in their defiance of the Colonel. Their bonds are too strong to be broken by his cruelty and insensitivity.
“I won’t let that man lay a finger on you…”
Mother is prepared to stand up for her sons and what she believes in, even if she may suffer for it. (This loyalty to family mirrors that of Charlie later in the book.)
“I thought of them lying in each other’s arms and I wanted to hate them. But I couldn’t.”
Tommo’s sense of family loyalty and love is too strong for him to resent Molly and Charlie’s relationship. (Note the new sentence for ‘But I couldn’t’, emphasising Tommo’s hesitation, yet his certainty.)
“I had been an onlooker. No longer.”
Tommo’s history of passive witnessing events unfold beyond his control (when his father was killed by the tree; when his brother was punished at school; when he loses Molly to Charlie) is coming to an end. His destiny is to be a doer rather than an avoider of action.
Who says it?
What you could say about the quotation
“Y’aint a coward, are you?”
This question haunts Tommo, as it forces him to decide between his home and the army, potentially threatening his relationships with his nearest and dearest.
“Why would I want to shoot a German?”
Charlie is Peaceful by name, peaceful by nature. His sense of loyalty and heroism lies in protecting his loved ones, not in killing his enemies.
“I had to prove myself. I had to prove myself to myself.”
Tommo joins the army as a rite of passage. He needs to overcome the guilt of killing his father and the way to do this is by becoming a man.
“What a friend I have in Charlie.”
Tommo looks up to his brother as a Christ-like saviour figure, whose self-sacrifice for his loved ones echoes Jesus’ own self-sacrifice for mankind.
“I’m not leaving him. I’ll be staying with him.”
Charlie is prepared to put brotherly love above his duty as a soldier. He is willing to risk his own life in favour of loyalty to his brother.
“I want you to promise me you’ll look after things for me.”
Even when faced with death, Charlie’s priority is still the welfare of his family. He puts their lives above his own, showing the utmost love and loyalty.
“All I know is that I must survive. I have promises to keep.”
Tommo’s sense of duty to his family becomes his priority after Charlie’s death. To honour his brother, he assumes the role of the family protector from now on. The ending of the novel invites us to imagine Tommo stepping into Charlie’s shoes