April Morning is a novel about Adam Cooper’s coming of age during the Battle of Lexington. One critic notes that in the beginning of the novel Adam is “dressed down by his father, misunderstood by his mother and plagued by his brother.” Secondary to this plot piece is the peaceful people of Lexington forced “to go into a way of war that they abhorred.”
While the novel was not originally written as a young adult story, it has increasingly been assigned in middle school English and social studies classes, due to the age of the protagonist and author Howard Fast’s meticulous efforts to recreate the texture of daily life in colonial America and the political currents on the eve of the American Revolution.
In 1987, a film version was made for television starring Chad Lowe as Adam and Tommy Lee Jones as Moses.
The novel begins in the afternoon of April 18, 1775 when Adam Cooper’s father, Moses Cooper, sends Adam out to draw water from the well for his mother, Sarah Cooper. After completing this task, Adam heads upstairs to talk with Granny. During the talk with her, they engage in a debate on religion. Afterwords, they head downstairs to eat dinner. Then the family prays and the meal, consisting of bread pudding and donkers, begins. In the middle of the meal, Moses confronts Adam about a “spell” to be said while drawing water. As a result, the confrontation starts an argument, which is interrupted by Cousin Simmons arriving. Cousin Simmons, chosen to draft a letter on the rights of man, comes to Moses with his draft seeking criticism. Another debate arises over Cousin Simmons’ description of rights as “god-given.” Moses asserts that rights come from the people backing them, not God.
After dinner is over and Adam finishes some evening chores, he heads over to the Simmons’ house to meet with Ruth, his love interest, and go on a walk. Before he is able to see Ruth, however, Aunt Simmons makes conversation with Adam and feeds him pie. Then Ruth comes downstairs, and Adam and Ruth leave on a walk. While they are walking, they talk about various things, including their futures and what they want to be in the world. After a kiss Adam walks Ruth home and then he himself heads home. Upon arrival, Adam spots Levi cleaning his gun. Adam does not like this but his mother insists that he let Levi do it. Then Adam heads upstairs and goes to bed. Before falling asleep he overhears his parents talking about the committee meeting. Finally he falls asleep.
Suddenly, Adam is awakened by his brother Levi. Levi draws attention to a speedy rider that stops in the center of town. Now the whole family is awake and curious. People gather around the rider on the green, who informs the town that the British are coming and may be marching through the town. He then rides off. Because of this news, arguments stir in the crowd on whether to muster the militia. The people of Lexington agree to muster it. Adam signs up and is then tasked to take Ruth home. After doing so, he comes to his home to overhear his parents designating him a man. As he walks in his father chastises him, then has Adam load his gun and go to the muster.
After Adam and all the other men arrive at the green, the militia muster falls into order and the women and children are sent inside. They stand there for a few hours until the redcoats march into town. The British fix bayonets, then fire upon the militia. Adam’s father falls and Adam runs away. He hides in a smokehouse until Levi comes in. Levi tells Adam to leave the town because the British are searching the town. Adam leaves and jumps over a wall and meets Solomon Chandler. He feeds and comforts Adam on the events Adam just witnessed. Then they walk until they meet Cousin Dover, Cousin Simmons and the Reverend. The company continues to walk until they arrive at the militia encampment. There the militia plans several ambushes and Adam shares his story of the massacre on the Lexington green. Then the militia sends a horseman to scout ahead while the others lie in wait by the road. The horseman returns, then the British come. The militia releases a few volleys before retreating over the hill. The militia, not pursued by the British, stop to rest and plan the next ambush.
During the next ambush Adam falls asleep under some brush. He is awakened by Cousin Simmons and the Reverend searching for his body and talking about him. Adam calls to them, to their relief, and they send him home. He returns home and is greeted by Levi, who walks Adam into the house. The house is occupied by mourners, Ruth, Granny, and his mother. Adam’s mother sends him to get his father a coffin and take it to the church. After a brief conversation with the coffin-maker Adam returns home. He eats dinner, then his mother sends him to light candles by his father’s coffin. Ruth accompanies him and they talk for a while, until Adam walks Ruth home. Then he himself goes home and retires to bed.
== Themes ==
Several major themes arise in April Morning. Although the most common theme picked up on is coming of age, several others have been noted. These others are non-violence, the rights of man, and the truth.
The first theme, coming of age, deals with Adam Cooper’s becoming a man during the Battle of Lexington. After Moses Cooper is killed on the green, Adam is thrust into manhood. After puking and sobbing after battle, Adam returns home to be treated as the man of the house, against his wishes.
The theme of nonviolence is based on Moses Cooper’s belief in solving problems through arguments, rather than warfare. This theme is also supported by Adam’s later saying “I don’t hate anyone enough to kill him.” The rights of man appears several times through Moses’ speeches. Also, the colonists are drafting a statement on the rights of man to send to Boston.
For the truth theme, several conflicts have been noted in the first chapter, such as Moses Cooper’s talking against superstition yet birching Adam seven times.
== Background ==
York has said that Fast’s view on the revolution (that aligns with his political beliefs) is exhibited in April Morning. He says “[Fast] believed the essence of the revolution was with the faceless and nameless people who fought it.” Also, the New York Times says that “[Fast] proposes that Solomon Chandler organized the Battle of Lexington.
== Reception ==
April Morning received many positive reviews. Hunter praised Fast for writing April Morning for “demonstrat[ing] a more mature vision.” Desrosiers agreed, saying that April Morning “[is] a well written work which knits together the events of the 19th of April 1775.” Macdonald also praised Fast for “A virtually perfect relationship between literary character and research.”
The novel was adapted for TV in the Hallmark Hall of Fame in 1988 by James Lee Barrett. This production was directed by Delbert Mann. This film adaptation also stars Chad Lowe as Adam Cooper and Tommy Lee Jones as Moses Cooper. Although it is set at the very beginning of the American Revolution it is more about Adam’s journey to manhood and his relationship with his parents.
April Morning, by Howard Fast. Originally published 1961. Mass Market Paperback: Bantam, 1983. ISBN 0-553-27322-1