The story “Death of a Soldier” by Louisa May Alcott tells of a time when Alcott had to tell John, a soldier injured in battle, that he had very little time to live and would soon pass away. In the piece, Alcott portrays a man who should have years of life ahead of him but for his injury. He is a humble man who does not complaint or ask for assistance but readily accepts help with gratitude. Although he served his people in a time of war, John did not want to be a burden at the hospital after being injured in battle. The story gives the reader a glimpse into a different side of the life a soldier by telling the reader of John’s mother and siblings that he took care of when he was at home with them.
Toward the middle of the story, Alcott tells the reader through John that John would not leave his family to get married and start his own family because he viewed that as pleasing himself, but je was willing to leave his family to enlist in the army because he viewed that at helping his neighbor. Thus, Alcott conveys to the reader the soft altruistic nature of the soldier wounded on the battlefield; it also conveys the sense of turmoil that Alcott feels when trying to decide how to tell a man like John that he does not have long to live.
Throughout the story, Alcott is a nurse during the time of war who narrates the story. Must of what she wants to convey to the reader about John is presented as dialogue so that it is presented to the reader in John’s own words. Alcott presents John to the reader as a man who is strong physically, as one would typically think of a soldier, however, his real strength is in his character. In fact, after Alcott spends a significant amount of time in the story trying to think of a way to tell John that he is going to die, when she actually tells him, John does not appear to take the news too badly. In response to the news, John, who appears to be muscular and strong in spite of his injury, states, “I’m not afraid, but it’s difficult to believe all at once. I’m so strong it don’t seem possible for such a little wound to kill me.” Alcott’s telling of the story of John in is an effective way to convey to the reader the strength of character that the soldiers had to have to risk their lives on the battlefield for what they thought was right.
One assumption that Alcott seems to make throughout much of this piece is that the death of a soldier is sad. Although this is not explicitly stated in piece, the emotions that Alcott goes through when trying to decide how to break the news to John lets the reader know that this is Alcott’s primary belief throughout much of the story. Not only is John able to face death, he seems to be at peace with the fact the he knows that his was helping his neighbors in a valiant cause when he suffered the injury that ultimately led to his death. In the last line of the piece in which Alcott describes the last moments of John’s life, the reader is left to wonder whether Alcott has come to realize that John’s death is not to be viewed sadly and arrived at the same acceptance of John’s death as John has.