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MonkeyNotes-The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
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The Gentlemen theme

Lee vs. Longstreet:

"Like all Englishmen, and most southerners, Fremantle would rather lose the war than his dignity. Dick Garnett would die and die smiling." Longstreet explains to Fremantle why winning is more important than bravery.

Garnett: see above.

Stuart vs. Harrison contrast:

Harrison is considered a dishonorable dog, but he gets the crucial information about the Union position; Stuart is an enlisted gentleman but he leaves the Confederate army blind when he leaves to joyride. This contrast subtly mocks gentlemanly ideals by showing an example where the responsible individual is the lower-born non-soldier.


"It is unbecoming to a soldier, all this book-learning," Pickett said haughtily. It ainít gentlemanly, George," Armistead corrected. (p.56)

The Intuition theme

Although all of the bookís main characters fall back on instincts at some point, Longstreet is described as putting much less emphasis on gut feelings than Lee. Longstreet sees battles as mathematical equations, Lee seeks to mold his attacks according to Godís will.

The Duty theme

Duty to family vs. Duty to Government:

Chamberlain will be forced to use his younger brother to "fill a hole" in the defensive line on Little Round Top, Leeís quotation from his refusal of Lincolnís offer to head the Union Army basically states that although he is loyal to his nation, he is unable to raise his hand against his relatives and his home (Virginia). The Ancient Greek play Antigone centers on a similar Family vs. State theme and shows loyalty to oneís relatives to be the more important of the two.

Allegiance to State:

The Pennsylvania captain has disdain for all Maine men. Chamberlain hopes to relate to the mutineers because they are from his own state. Longstreet (from South Carolina) holds a view of honor that differs from the other officers in the Confederacy, most of whom are from Virginia. Lee turned down Lincolnís offer to head to Union army because Lee is a Virginian first and an American second. Chamberlain is an aberration from the state loyalty that was so strong at the time of the Civil War: "Home. One place is just like another, really. Maybe not. But truth is itís all just rock and dirt and people are roughly the same. I was born up there [Maine] but Iím no stranger here. Have always felt at home everywhere, even in Virginia, where they hate me. Everywhere you go thereís nothing but the same rock and dirt and houses and people and deer and birds. They give it all names, but Iím at home everywhere. Odd thing: unpatriotic. I was at home in England. I would be at home in the desert. In Afghanistan or far Typee. All mine, it all belongs to me. My world." (p.119)

The Motives for Fighting theme

Shaara spends more time describing the Confederate motives, probably because the Confederate side is so much more difficult to sympathize with. Hereís why theyíre fighting:


Armistead: to uphold his loyalties to Virginia.

Early: to further his political career

Lee: to defend his family

Longstreet: to defend his state

Pickett: for the glory of Virginia, honor, Stateís rights


Chamberlain: to end slavery, preserve union, and satisfy inner need for adventure

Kilrain: to destroy the Southern aristocracy

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MonkeyNotes-The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara


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