Welcome to our discussion of the Civil War classic novel The Killer Angels, based on the three-day Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. Through the lens of fiction, Shaara depicts the chief commanders and soldiers on both sides of the conflict, Union and Confederate. To do so, Shaara projects the real-time thoughts and conversations of such figures as General Robert E. Lee, Lt. General James Longstreet and Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. With a writer’s and researcher’s eye, he brings to life factual material culled from journals, biographies, memoirs, and numerous other historical documents.
To start off our discussion, here are a few questions (below.) Feel free to respond to these, add your own thoughts, and comment on observations by your fellow writers. Because the issues here are Big, be sure to converse with the kind of mutual respect many of these figures seemed to display even in the throes of war:
1.) Describe the voice of a few of the characters, such as Lee, Longstreet, Chamberlain, Major General Pickett, Major General John Buford or others. Does the author’s narrative voice change when we see the battle through these men’s eyes? What elements of their character are shown via their gestures, words, action, or internal musings?
Is this multi-character viewpoint effective or not?
2.) Name a few transformational moments for the primary characters–as well as the battle itself and the plot of the story. (The events unfold in many ways like fiction even in the historical retelling. Why?) In the end, what themes did the outcome of the battle predict for the remainder of the war, and the trajectory of the nation?
3.) What parallels do you see between the Battle of Gettysburg/Civil War and the current political landscape? What do these three days tell us about modern history-in-the-making?
5.) What elements of figurative language do you find in the book, such as simile, metaphor, or symbolism? What passages of language are especially effective, or problematic?
6.) Overall, any other thoughts or points you’d like to make… (Also, please use first names or monikers when responding to a comment so we can keep track…I am jcscribe)