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MonkeyNotes-The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
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Minor Themes

Soldiers’ Past Experiences:

The deaths of his [Longstreet’s] children." (p.49) "Longstreet had known them all for twenty years and more. They had served together in the Mexican War and in the old 6 th Infantry out in California. They had been under fire together...It was more a family than an army." (p.54)

Gentlemen (Stuart’s Absence):

"We have other cavalry. Why doesn’t the old man [Lee] send for a look? Tell you why: he can’t believe Stuart would let him down."

Human Nature:

Lee’s optimism


"There was an odor of trouble, an indefinable wrong. It was like playing chess and making a bad move and not knowing why but knowing instinctively that it was a bad move. The instincts were yelling." (p.52) A metaphor is used in this quotation.

Gentlemen (Pickett)

"It is unbecoming to a soldier, all this book-learning," Pickett said haughtily.

"It ain’t gentlemanly, George," Armistead corrected.

"The Yankees got all the smart ones,’ Pickett said placidly, "and look where it got them."

(p.56) This also touches on intuition.


"They will come when we don’t need them, like the bank offering money when you’re no longer in debt." (p.54) Note the simile.

Duty (State Allegience):

" ‘We sent your two brigades to Richmond because we figured they were Virginia boys and that was proper.’ " (p.59)

Idealism vs. Realism:

" ‘The whole war could be damn well over soon, beg pardon, and my boys would have missed it.’ (p.58-60) Note that Pickett sounds like an idealist here (he thinks war is glorious) but that later in the book he will have become a realist after having experienced the horrors of war. Also note the presence of irony.

Lee vs. Longstreet (Strategy):

" ‘The day of the one-battle war is over...We have trenches now...’ " (p.61)

Human Nature (Monkey tricks):

" ‘Longstreet thought of his children, that Christmas, that terrible Christmas, and turned his mind away." (p.62) By turning his mind away, Longstreet is looking to distract himself from his emotional pain. His commanding is his main distraction. These self-inflicted distractions are known as monkey tricks (or at least they are labeled as such by Conrad).


"It came to him [Longstreet] in the night sometimes with a sudden appalling shock that the boys he was fighting were boys he had grown up with."

Lee vs. Longstreet (Passion)

" ‘You know we are dying one at a time and there aren’t enough of us and we die just as dead as anybody, and a boy from back home aint a better soldier than a boy from Minnesota or anywhere else just because he’s from back home.’ " (p.63)

Lee vs. Longstreet (Strategy):

" ‘On the other hand, we sure do stomp them consistently, now don’t we Pete? This may be the time for defensive war. But, Pete, this ain’t the army for it."

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MonkeyNotes-The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara


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