The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara - Book Report/Review Example

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The United States in January 1973, under the Nixon Administration, signed the Paris Peace Accords, officially ending America's involvement in the Vietnam conflict. A messy war, ideologically, politically and militarily, its presentation in the media and the reaction from the public radically altered the way in which citizens perceive war…
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The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
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Download file to see previous pages In the years and decades that followed countless interpretations, military, political, social and cultural were undertaken in order to understand the nightmare that was the Vietnam Era. One such interpretation was Michael Shaara's, The Killer Angels. Published the following year in 1974 and receiving the Pulitzer Prize in 1975, The Killer Angels is historical novel that attempts to grapple with another ideologically complex and exceptionally messy war, the Civil War. Shaara chooses to narrate a specific battle, the Battle of Gettysburg, through the eyes of a number of commanders of the North and South. What unfolds is an intensely psychological and emotion-laden portrayal of the decisions and actions of these commanders and in this psychological analysis, Shaara means to educate and enlighten his reader to the difficulties of managing a war. Though Shaara's work is not intended as an apology for the mishaps of Vietnam, it is intended, as I hope to show in this paper, as a working through the typologies of leadership and the need for ideological clarity in large-scale conflict.
Methodologically, Shaara has two separate but possibly related commitments, one, in citing Stephen Crane he offers that he wanted to write the book so that he and by extension others could understand what it was like to be there (Shaara xiii). This is an interesting wish contextually, given the graphic nature of what was flashing on American TV screens in the early 1970's. The second commitment and one that perhaps explains the first is his claim, "to avoid historical opinions" (Shaara xiii). The Vietnam conflict, was being historicized as it was happening, the birth of military punditry, the anti-war demonstrations, the nature of the coverage itself manipulated the discourse of war during the Vietnam era. Shaara claims to be going back to the words, letters and accounts of the perspectives he chooses to cover. In a sort of mythical recovery, in a going back to the source, Shaara believes, or claims to believe that he can uncover some sort of truth about war and leadership in the Civil War, a truth that perhaps was obfuscated in the sensationalistic coverage of the Vietnam War. Shaara also mentions that he updates the language of those commanders so that the religiosity and naivete of the time would not interfere in the transference of the message. This admission is indicative at least in part of Shaara's task, in the presentation of the internal worlds of the commanders of war; one can hope to offer relevant lessons about future conflict to later generations. As such The Killer Angels cannot be interpreted as just a historical novel, insofar that in most historical novels the language whether it be religious, or breezy is usually retained to maintain a sense of the period or to lend a certain authenticity of the account-this is not something that Shaara is interested in from the beginning. The reference to the "modern ear," no doubt jaded by the horrors of Vietnam, would not listen with same pedagogical intention that Shaara wishes for his audiences to have.
Some of have speculated that in very real way Shaara draws explicit parallels between the Kennedy administration and the leaders of the war, both North and south. For example in the biographical depicted of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the hero of Little Round Top, the number of similarities between JLC's life and JFK's occur in "too many respects for coincidence" ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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