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The Idealism vs. Realism theme
Chamberlain vs. Kilrain:
Chamberlain, who is one of the two main protagonists along with Longstreet, represents the pensive ex-professor’s perspective--as opposed to the West Point views of the other "army regulars." This type of professor-made- officer character is also found in Saving Private Ryan, in which Tom Hanks portrays a thoughtful and considerate intellectual similar to Chamberlain. Chamberlain "marches off to war with a vast faith in the brotherhood of man [but then] spends the long night at Fredericksburg piling corpses in front of himself to shield him from bullets." (p. xix) Chamberlain’s idealism was only wounded, however, and it lives on despite of the senseless atrocities of war and the opposing views of others. One of those others is Kilrain, a fatherly aide to Chamberlain who is primarily a foil for the ex-professor. Kilrain’s opinion that some men have no more worth than a dead dog is rejected by Chamberlain, who sees a divine spark in all humans.
Longstreet vs. Lee:
Lee is a true southern gentleman, a romantic who holds pride above life. The "formal and pious" general has a much different opinion of idealist principles and honor than Longstreet, the "grim and gambling" pragmatist
Pickett’s transformation: " ‘The whole war could be damn well over soon, beg pardon, and my boys would have missed it. And these are Virginians, sir, and have a certain pride.’ It occurred to him [Pickett] that Longstreet not being a Virginian, he might have given another insult." (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 ("That man destroyed my division." p.352).
The Union vs. Confederacy theme
Meade + frequent shifts in command = low moral
Superior: decisive Lee + strategic Longstreet = high moral
Diverse, many nationalities
Homogeneous, white old money Few factories, blocked from Europe Underdog
Many factories, contact w/Europe
Superior numbers and supplies
Wins in West, losses in Virginia
Wins in Virginia, losses out West