The Approaching Fury Essay - Critical Essays

Stephen B. Oates

The Approaching Fury

In this unique narrative history, Stephen B. Oates brings the four decades preceding the Civil War vividly alive by letting the characters speak in the first person about their lives and the part they played in history.

The work covers the period from 1820 to 1861 in America, as the country struggled with the complex issues of slavery, westward expansion, and states’ rights. The seventy-two monologues of the thirteen speakers powerfully recreate the climate and events during the forty years preceding America’s greatest national tragedy, the Civil War. The metaphor in the title THE APPROACHING FURY: VOICES OF THE STORM, 1820-1861, Oates tells readers, comes from the figures themselves, as they all in their own way describe the approach of war in terms of a “gathering storm.” Among the speakers are William Lloyd Garrison, American abolitionist who founded the influential antislavery newspaper THE LIBERATOR in 1831; John C. Calhoun, senator from South Carolina and champion of states’ rights; Frederick Douglass, American abolitionist, orator, and writer who escaped slavery; Harriet Beecher Stowe, American writer, abolitionist, and author of UNCLE TOM’S CABIN (1852); Stephen A. Douglas, American politician noted for his debates with Abraham Lincoln; John Brown, American abolitionist whose attempt to end slavery by force greatly increased tensions between North and South; Jefferson Davis, United States senator from 1857 to 1861 and the first and only president of the Confederate States of America; and Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States.

Oates has admirably succeeded in bringing to life this critical and turbulent time in American history, and as such this book is an excellent introduction to the complex problems confronting America as it moved inevitably toward war.

Oates plans a sequel to this volume, THE WINDS OF CIVIL WAR: VOICES OF THE STORM 1861-1865, which will cover the war years.

Sources for Further Study

America’s Civil War. X, January, 1998, p. 64.

Boston Globe. February 17, 1997, p. C8.

Kirkus Reviews. LXV, January 1, 1997, p. 44.

Library Journal. CXXII, February 15, 1997, p. 146.

The New York Times Book Review. CII, April 6, 1997, p. 34.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLIV, January 6, 1997, p. 57.