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Friendly Persuasion (1956) - Plot Summary Poster

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  • The story of a family of Quakers in Indiana in 1862. Their religous sect is strongly opposed to violence and war. It's not easy for them to meet the rules of their religion in everyday life but when Southern troops pass the area they are in real trouble. Should they fight, despite their peaceful attitide?

  • In 1862, in Southern Indiana, the Quakers Jess Birdwell, his wife and Minister Eliza, their teenage son Joshua, their teenage daughter Mattie and their young son Little Jess live a peaceful life in their farm. Eliza opposes to the war and they follow the stringent principles of their religious sect. But when the rebel Southern troops threaten the Birdwell family and their friends and neighbors, Josh decides to go to the front to defend their lands and Jess has to take a position against the principles of the Quakers.

  • A Quaker family live a peaceful and productive life in a prosperous Indiana farming community during the Civil War. Jess Birdwell, his wife Eliza and their children live their faith and their beliefs every day. They are friendly, open, honest and welcoming. They live an almost idyllic life. They also preach non-violence and remain neutral as far as the war and fighting goes. They are against slavery but don't feel men should be killed over the issue. Their eldest daughter Mattie is sweet on Gard Jordan who is now a Union Lieutenant but they think no less of him for that. Their peaceful coexistence with the war is tested, along with their faith and their beliefs, when a Confederate army threatens their area.

  • 1862. Jess and Eliza Birdwell and their three offspring - young adults Josh and Mattie and adolescent Little Jess - are a loving, supportive Quaker farming family (Jess a nurseryman) living in Southern Indiana. Especially as Eliza is a minister, they live to their Quaker beliefs, one of the largest day-to-day issues being avoiding falling into temptation that surrounds them in general society, each member of the family and of their Quaker community facing his or her own temptations. These temptations include, for Jess, stroking his own ego in wanting a horse faster than that belonging to neighbor and friend Sam Jordan, a Methodist, solely to beat Sam in less than impromptu road races in going to their respective Sunday religious services, and, for Mattie, doing whatever to look more holistically attractive to Sam's son, Gard Jordan, a Union soldier, who is unofficially courting her. Because of their pacifism, the Quaker community has not encouraged their own to fight in the war, their belief not to bear arms against their fellow man stronger than their belief in the freedom for slaves. The slavery issue hits home for the Birdwells as their farmhand, Enoch, is a runaway slave. Some in the general population accuse the Quakers of hiding behind religion in order not to fight for the real reason of fear. Josh, a young man of prime fighting age, admits he does not fight as he doesn't believe in violence. Although some men in the Quaker community speak their own mind about fighting if it comes to protecting one's own family and their community in general - some truly not knowing if their belief matches reality - those words and beliefs will be tested as the rebel Confederate forces approach the area. The entire issue has the potential to figuratively tear apart the Birdwells if their beliefs and actions differ among the individual family members, each who is directly affected in different ways.

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  • The pacifist attitude of a Quaker family is tested as a result of the American Civil War.


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