Sunday, April 4, 2010

Essay on Gods and Generals

Essay on Gods and Generals


Throughout Gods and Generals, Jeff Shaara creates many lines that hold great significance and contribute greatly to the meaning of the book. Robert Edward Lee, Thomas Jonathon Jackson, and Winfield Scott Hancock, three men that played key roles in the Civil War, all reveal their personalities and their leadership through the words they speak. Their unforgettable words have been carried on throughout history and still hold strong meaning today.

Robert Edward Lee, a definite asset to the Confederate army, shows his loyalty to his home, Virginia. He is requested by Winfield Scott, a man who Lee deeply respects, to command the Union army.

Please understand, I am sorely opposed to secession, as I am opposed to the violent path that the southern states seen bent on following. I decided months ago that my greatest loyalty is to Virginia, to my home. I would rather resign from the army and return to my fields at Arlington than to lead an invasion such as this. I hope, with all prayers to God, that Virginia stays within the Union, but I fear that with this call for an army, this building of an invasion force…I fear the President will now unite his enemies. And that may include Virginia. Please tell him, please be clear, I have never taken my duties lightly, not to my country, nor to my home. But I have no greater duty than to my home, Virginia. (101)

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Lee realizes what is truly important as he eventually takes on the task of leading the Confederate army in order to defend Virginia. He clearly stands out as a “god” through his actions.

Another “god” in this novel, Thomas Jonathon Jackson, often expresses his religious views in relation to the war. “We do all we can to please You, and he felt a calm satisfaction, knew God would be pleased by such a day as this” (402). Jackson does all he can to please God in his everyday life. He is greatly benefited by this as God guides him through battle after battle, giving him the courage to face the enemy. The title of this novel, Gods and Generals, refers to two different types of men. Jackson graciously proves himself to be a “god”.

Winfield Scott Hancock also holds great significance as he leads the Union troops into battle. Although he is fighting for the North, Hancock differs greatly from the many political northern generals and their beliefs.

Hancock stood at the front, always listened with respect, and watched his men, knew that this was not what made them soldiers, that if the fight were not in them already, no great speech about loving the flag would change that. He did not understand why the generals did not see, would not accept, that those other fellows, those boys in the ragged uniforms who wanted to burn your lovely flag, had already shown they could hurt you, would stand up to your patriotism and put the bayonet through your beloved uniform. But still the words came, and Hancock
began to understand. It was all they knew how to do: make speeches. Very few of them had ever led troops under fire, had ever led troops at all. And when the time came many of them would fail, and many men would die because they did not have leaders. (168)

The difference between Hancock and the politicians of the North is what makes Hancock stand out as a leader. The opinions of the politicians do not influence Hancock’s beliefs, for he knows his duty and must carry it out regardless of the situation.

Throughout Gods and Generals the words of these men seem to influence and make an impact on any situation. These lines bring out the characteristics and personality traits of each man. These words will continue to be remembered by many as they are passed on through history. In many cases, such as this, words truly can speak louder than actions.

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