The Killer Angels

by Michael Shaara

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Watch the movie Gettysburg and make a class presentation, using video clips, in which you discuss to what extent the main characters in the film resemble the characters as created by Shaara in the novel. Do you notice any major differences between the movie and the novel?

Read two or three nonfiction historical accounts of the third day of the battle. Also study the sections in the novel in which Lee and Longstreet disagree about tactics. Then write an essay in which you discuss the different ways in which the relationship between the two men at Gettysburg has been interpreted. Do your sources give any clue as to whether the Confederate defeat was due to Lee’s flawed judgment or to Longstreet’s lack of support for his commander’s tactics?

Write an essay in which you analyze how the attitude toward war expressed by the participants, especially Chamberlain after the battle, and Pickett, before the final charge, differ from modern attitudes toward war. Would it be fair to say that the characters in The Killer Angels have a romantic view of war and battle? What role does the concept of honor and glory play in this novel? How have attitudes toward war today been altered by the experience of the United States in Vietnam and Iraq?

Make a class presentation in which you analyze two characters from the novel, comparing and contrasting them. You may choose two characters from the same side, such as Lee and Longstreet, or from different sides, such as Longstreet and Chamberlain. You may also select less central figures, such as Buford, Armistead, or Pickett. Make sure you discuss important traits such as leadership qualities. What type of leadership does each man show?

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