What is different with the approach and style used by the author in The Killer Angels?
Although not all of the facts are accurate and Shaara takes liberties with his portrayal of the characters, does he convey the battle effectively?
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What makes The Killer Angels different from other books--both fiction and non-fiction--about the American Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg is author Michael Shaara's imaginative way of bringing the main characters to life through inventive dialogue and thought processes. For the most part, no one knows what the characters--Lee, Longstreet, Chamberlain, Pickett--were thinking in the days leading up to the battle. Shaara's recreates what they may have been thinking during these climactic days, and he does so in a realistic manner based on his thorough research of the men and the events that transpired. Shaara's depiction of the three days of battle is highly accurate--aside from the fictional conversations and descriptions of what each character was thinking. For example, we know that Longstreet was against the final attack on the Union center and tried to dissuade Lee from ordering it. What we don't know are the words he spoke--to Lee and his close friend, Pickett. Shaara has taken liberty with this aspect of his story, but his version and the words he puts in the mouths of the characters are wholly believable and far better than any other literary examples. The characters come to life through Shaara's pen in a way that they never have before, especially in the case of some of the secondary players such as Armistead and Garnett, who died in the final charge without leaving any personal documentation of the battle. These are just a few examples of why Shaara was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for The Killer Angels.
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