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Susan: A Morally Developing Character

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Susan: A Morally Developing Character The Last Silk Dress by Ann Rinaldi takes place during the Civil War in the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. Susan Dobson Chilmark, a gorgeous, intelligent, dynamic fourteen-year-old girl, who vows to devote herself to the Confederacy and the Cause, narrates the novel. Once she meets her older brother Lucien Dobson Chilmark, she learns more about the past of her family, why he left the family, and he begins to change her thoughts about the War. Due to the guidance of others and the turmoil of the War, Susan develops morally in the novel. After a close encounter with a violent mob of Confederate supporters, Susan's father Hugh Chilmark gives her momentous advice while confined in his office at Tredegar Iron Works, "'Do what you think is right. Even if it hurts those around you"' (14). The meaning of this quote is to Susan is to follow her heart even though the outcome of her decision may hurt those she loves. Hugh wants Susan to make her own decisions and not to follow the example of others. He also realizes Susan is growing up and will face many difficult decisions throughout her lifetime, but wants her to know he will support her decisions, no matter the outcome. ...read more.


Her brother Lucien also tells her this during their first meeting. She is continuing to reconsider her devotion to the Confederacy. Susan is beginning to wonder what the purpose of the war is, and is wondering why innocent men are being killed for a cruel practice. This event is the turning point for Susan's devotion to the Confederacy to deteriorate. In the book, Susan offers to collect dresses for a Confederate hot air balloon that will be used to spy on the Yankees. Susan tells the women, "'I'll collect the dress if you-all will give them up"' (115). The meaning of this quote is Susan is showing her support to the Confederacy. She also proves to the high-society women of Richmond that she and her family care about the War. Susan does not ask her mother if she can do this task. The significance of this event is Susan still believes in the Cause, is willing to doing anything to help, and her mother to love and appreciate her. It also shows she is unselfish because she is giving her good silk dresses for the balloon. After asking her mother for permission, she finds her mother is proud of her because she is chairing to collect and donate silk dresses for the Confederate balloon. ...read more.


The significance of this event is Susan changes her heart. This is Susan's way of letting go of her past. She stands up for her own beliefs, and does not follow the example of others. This event shows Susan's heart truly lies with the Union. Once Timothy captures the Confederate hot air balloon, Susan is afraid Timothy is dead. She asks Lucien, "'Is Timothy dead'" (282). The meaning of this quote is Susan cares for Timothy and is beginning to follow in love with him. The significance of this is Susan is looking inside of people. This shows she is beginning to mature and understands the meaning of having a relationship. She understands what love truly is and does not care what others think about her being with a Yankee. Susan matures and finds herself in the novel because of the example and advice of others, and the turbulent period of the War. The significance of Susan developing is she is beginning to think for herself, she does not follow the leads of others; rather, she follows her heart. She follows her father's advice and is able to overcome many obstacles throughout the novel. Many people living in today's world can relate to Susan. They are struggling to find their true selves, and strive for acceptance and perfection, just like Susan. ...read more.

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