Across Five Aprils


Irene Hunt

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Across Five Aprils Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Irene Hunt's Across Five Aprils. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Irene Hunt

Irene Hunt was born in central Illinois in 1907; after her father died when she was just seven years old, her family relocated to be near to her grandparents in rural southern Illinois. After earning a bachelor’s degree at the University of Illinois, Hunt moved north to Minnesota to pursue a master’s degree in education before returning to her home state of Illinois, where she spent decades teaching English and French to high schoolers. After a brief time spent teaching at the college level in South Dakota, Hunt returned again to Illinois where she worked for the public school system and eventually became a director of language arts education for the state. After retiring at the age of 62, she embarked on a second career as a writer of young adult fiction. Across Five Aprils, her first book, was published in 1964, to much acclaim. Although it was nominated for a Newberry Award, it did not win. However, Hunt’s second novel, Up a Road Slowly, earned the Newberry Award in 1967. Hunt continued to publish books into her late 70s. She passed away at the age of 98 in 2001.
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Historical Context of Across Five Aprils

The primary historical context for Across Five Aprils is the American Civil War, which was fought between Northern (Union) and Southern (Confederate) states between April 1861 and April 1865. Although many social and political tensions between the states contributed to the conflict, the practice of slavery throughout the south was primary among them. Across Five Aprils acknowledges this in passing but avoids mentioning such important Civil War-era events as Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Further, several of the novel’s characters give voice to Southern political arguments around states’ rights and the ways in which the North allegedly disadvantaged and politically bullied Southern farmers. In this way, the novel seems to contribute to the “Lost Cause” myth, which argues that political and economic autonomy, not slavery, were the primary motivators of Southern secession. This myth developed in two primary phases. The myth first developed at the turn of the 20th century (when Hunt was a child) as people worked to record the memories of rapidly aging Confederate veterans. It reappeared during the Civil Rights Era (when the book was published) in response to growing calls for racial equity, especially in the Jim Crow south. 

Other Books Related to Across Five Aprils

Set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, Across Five Aprils in part traces Jethro’s dawning realization that the war he so longs for in early 1861 is much messier and costly than he could have ever imagined. Thus, it aligns with other novels tracing the tremendous social, emotional, and physical costs of the Civil War, like Stephen Crane’s 1895 The Red Badge of Courage or Charles Frazier’s more recent Cold Mountain (1997). It also resonates with William Dean Howell’s short story “Editha,” in which a character’s anti-war sentiment arises directly out of his parents’ experience of the Civil War. The story also criticizes the Spanish-American War of 1989—America’s first major conflict after the Civil War. As a work of historical fiction, Across Five Aprils also aligns with Irene Hunt’s other works of historical fiction for young adults, which consider moments in American history like the westward expansion (Trail of Apple Blossoms), the Great Depression (No Promises in the Wind), and the women’s liberation movement (Claws of a Young Century).
Key Facts about Across Five Aprils
  • Full Title: Across Five Aprils
  • When Written: 1960s
  • Where Written: Illinois
  • When Published: 1964
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Young Adult Novel, Historical Fiction, Bildungsroman
  • Setting: A small family farm in Southern Illinois during the American Civil War
  • Climax: Jethro Creighton decides how he will handle the situation of his cousin, Eb, who has deserted the Union Army.
  • Point of View: Third Person Limited

Extra Credit for Across Five Aprils

On the Dot. Irene Hunt was born and died on the same day, May 18, meaning she was exactly 98 years old when she passed away.

A House Divided. Among so-called border states (the states where slavery was legal but which did not join the Confederacy) and regions like southern Illinois, which bordered and had cultural similarities with the South, situations like the division between the Creighton brothers occurred with some regularity. Among many examples, that of the Terrill brothers, who fought on opposite sides of the Battle of Hartsville, Tennessee in 1862, comes the closest to the Creighton family’s situation in Across Five Aprils