The March: A Novel Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 33 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The March.
This section contains 506 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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The March: A Novel Summary & Study Guide Description

The March: A Novel Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on The March: A Novel by E. L. Doctorow.

The March, a novel by E. L. Doctorow, follows an array of disparate characters through the final weeks of the Civil War. As General William Tecumseh Sherman marches his Union troops through Georgia and north through the Carolinas, they are joined by another growing army of followers — freed slaves and displaced well-to-do whites, all of whom are at a loss regarding what to do now that their lives have been turned upside down. There is not one main character or central plot, but rather snippets from the lives of a wide range of characters who are trying to navigate through unique circumstances.

The book opens with Union soldiers looting and burning Fieldstone, the Georgia plantation owned by John and Mattie Jameson, who have fled to Savannah with their most precious belongings. As the troops leave, they are joined by Pearl, the white-skinned daughter of John Jameson and one of his slaves, and the other newly-freed slaves from the plantation, all of whom are unsure of what their futures hold so they simply follow the troops as they travel north, fighting the final battles of the war. In Milledgeville, Georgia, they are joined by Emily Thompson, who is now alone following the death of her wealthy father, her former slave Wilma, and Arly and Will, a couple of Confederate soldiers now masquerading as Union soldiers.

Pearl is taken under the wing of a Union officer named Clarke, who disguises her as a white drummer boy in order to protect her. After Clarke is killed, Pearl finds a letter he has written to his family and becomes determined to deliver it to them when she reaches the North. Pearl and Emily also find purpose by assisting Wrede Sartorius, a brilliant surgeon but cold human being, who eventually seduces Emily and later is called to Washington as a physician for President Abraham Lincoln. When the troops reach Savannah, Pearl is surprised to find her former owner, Mattie Jameson, whose husband has died, and Pearl helps her find purpose of her own and locate her only surviving son, giving them money to return to Fieldstone and rebuild their lives. Pearl's story continues with her relationship with Union soldier Stephen Walsh, who falls in love with her and hopes to help her learn to live as a free white woman.

Arly and Will tag along with the troops, meeting photographer Josiah Culp and his black assistant, Calvin. After Will and Culp die, Arly assumes Culp's identity and hatches a secret plan to shoot General Sherman while pretending to take a photo of him.

As the book draws to a conclusion, the Confederate Army surrenders and the novel's various characters prepare to face their uncertain futures. Arly's plan backfires and he is executed. Emily begins helping at an orphanage, Mattie returns to her now-destroyed plantation, Calvin plans to take over Culp's photography business in Baltimore, and Pearl continues north with Stephen, still set on her mission of delivering Clarke's final letter before embarking on her new life.

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This section contains 506 words
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