The Killer Angels

by Michael Shaara
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What are some examples of direct characterization of Joshua Chamberlain?

We can find direct characterization of Chamberlain by looking for the places in which Shaara or the narrator tells us straightforwardly what Chamberlain is like: what he does, what his habits are, how he speaks, what he looks like, what his attitudes and beliefs are, what he wants, what he hopes for, what matters most to him, and so on.

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In Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, we can find examples of direct characterization of Joshua Chamberlain by looking for the places in which Shaara or the narrator tells us straightforwardly what Chamberlain is like: what he does, what his habits are, how he speaks, what he looks like,...

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In Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, we can find examples of direct characterization of Joshua Chamberlain by looking for the places in which Shaara or the narrator tells us straightforwardly what Chamberlain is like: what he does, what his habits are, how he speaks, what he looks like, what his attitudes and beliefs are, what he wants, what he hopes for, what matters most to him, and so on.

Direct characterization of Chamberlain first appears in the book’s foreword, as the author introduces us to him:

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Colonel, thirty-four. He prefers to be called "Lawrence." . . . Tall and rather handsome, attractive to women, somewhat boyish, a clean and charming person. An excellent student, Phi Beta Kappa, he speaks seven languages and has a beautiful singing voice, but he has wanted all his life to be a soldier.

Above is our first example of direct characterization: that is, rather than showing us that Chamberlain is handsome, maybe by describing his features, the author instead directly informs us that he’s handsome. Further, we are also informed that women like him, that he’s charming and clean, and so on.

Here’s another example:

He was a tall man, somewhat picturesque. He wore stolen blue cavalry trousers and a three-foot sword, and the clothes he wore he had not taken off for a week. He had a grave, boyish dignity, that clean-eyed, scrubbedbrain, naive look of the happy professor.

Above, you can see the narrator telling us explicitly what kind of person Chamberlain is, what his manners are and what his attitude is, and even more about what he looks like.

Let’s see one more example:

"I'm not usually that informal," Chamberlain said with the same light, calm, pleasant manner that he had developed when talking to particularly rebellious students who had come in with a grievance and who hadn't yet learned that the soft answer turneth away wrath. Some wrath.

Here, the author is telling us directly how Chamberlain talks to people when they’re trying to demand something from him. Again, we find out what Chamberlain’s character is like here because the narrator is directly informing us of it.

(You might be wondering, “Wait, is there really any actual characterization in a book about history and real historical figures? Didn't the author just represent these people factually, like a journalist would?” Don’t worry; the author addressed this issue. In an opening note marked “To the Reader,” he tells readers that “The interpretation of character is my own,” meaning that, even though we’re reading a story largely based on the truth, Shaara did paint the characters as he saw fit.)

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