Follow the shifting lines of allegiance

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Senior Member
I caught this in a novel and don't understand the meaning of it. Please help me with it.

The boy here admires his brother very much. He does whatever his brother does. This context is after they were shouted at by their mother.

"I keep quiet. Soon I get up and start gathering pencils, because I prefer that to lying around trying to follow the shifting lines of allegiance. Carlton goes for a sponge and starts in on the mud."

I don't know what is "shifting lines of allegiance" means?
  • Cypherpunk

    Senior Member
    US, English
    'Allegiance' means being loyal to or supportive of someone (or something). 'Shifting lines' is usually a reference to warfare, when the front line shifts one direction or the other as combat occurs. Historically, we think of the front line moving on a somewhat constant basis, so it's hard to know exactly where it is. I would read 'lines of allegiance' as the support or loyalty that one person gives another.
    So, the character is having trouble understanding the shifting loyalties and support that he senses around him. Either he doesn't understand the situation, or he doesn't understand why the people around him are changing who or what they support.
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