Study Guide

The Killer Angels Suffering

By Michael Shaara

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So, yeah, we know we were all like, "We're getting the heavy themes like war and death and slavery out of the way right away!" Okay, well, bear with us. We haven't talked about suffering yet.

Suffering is an aspect of all of these other themes. Think about it: war, death, and slavery all cause suffering, after all. Well, okay: but is there a meaning to suffering? Does it help redeem anything? The end of The Killer Angels strongly implies that the soldiers' suffering helped preserve freedom in America and helped extend it to previously enslaved African Americans. But it's hard to say if all suffering has a greater purpose. For instance, we see how Longstreet's children all died during one horrible Christmas season—what could be the point to this?

Questions About Suffering

  1. How do the soldiers deal with suffering? Do they find meaning in it?
  2. What are the different kinds of suffering? How is Longstreet's suffering after losing his children different from Kilrain's suffering after being injured?
  3. Is there a point to suffering? Does it redeem anything or teach us any lessons? If so, how?
  4. Are there good reasons, sometimes, to make yourself suffer in order to achieve something? What would it be worth suffering to achieve?

Chew on This

All suffering will eventually be redeemed.

Sometimes, pointless suffering just happens—especially on a battlefield.

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