Study Guide

The Killer Angels Writing Style

By Michael Shaara

Writing Style

Lyrical, but Direct and Detailed

The second to last sentence of the book is a good example of Shaara's frequently poetic and lyrical style:

The true rain came in a monster wind, and the storm broke in blackness over the hills and the bloody valley; the sky opened along the ridge and the vast water thundered down, drowning the fires, flooding the red creeks, washing the rocks and the grass and the white bones of the dead, cleansing the earth and soaking it thick and rich with water and wet again with clean cold rainwater, driving the blood deep into the earth, to grow again with the roots toward Heaven. (4.6.27)

This passage is symbolic of the growth that's going to come from all this bloodshed—America's not going to die; it's going to flourish.

But even though Shaara uses these striking images, he's also very direct: for example, he describes troop movements with historical precision, and he goes through the thought processes of officers like Lee and Longstreet with a lot of detail. He wants to recreate the battle as clearly as possible, and he can be fairly technical when he wants to be. Here's a typical example:

Longstreet said, "Tell General Hood…" Then he thought: they uncovered the Rocky Hill. McLaws has troops in front of him. Good God. They aren't back on the ridge at all; they've moved forward. He took out the map he had drawn of the position, tried to visualize it. The Union Army was supposed to be up on the ridge. But it wasn't. It was down in the peach orchard. (3.3.180-181)

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