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General Lee Essay, Research Paper

General Lee in Perspective: A Comparison in Character Development Even among the free, it is not always easy to live together. There came a time, less than a hundred years ago, when the people of this country disagreed so bitterly among themselves that some of them felt they could not go on living with the rest. A test of arms was made to decide whether Americans should remain one nation or become two. A man named Robert E. Lee led the armies of those who believed in two nations. What about Lee? What kind of man was he who nearly split the history of the United States down the middle and made two separate books of it? They say you had to see him to believe that a man so fine could exist. General Lee was handsome, clever, brave, gentle, generous, and charming. Noble and modest, Robert was admired and beloved by all. He had never failed at anything in his upright soldier’s life. He was a born winner! With one exception marring his record. In the greatest contest of his life, in the war between the South and the North, the great Robert E. Lee and his loyal men were defeated forever. People approached Lee with smoldering eyes and contested: “Let’s not accept this result as final. Let’s keep our anger alive. Let’s be grim and unconvinced, and wear our bitterness like a medal. You can be our leader in this.” But Lee shook his head at those men. “Abandon your animosities,” he said, “and make your sons Americans.” (http://members.tripod.com/~jrw6/ leebio.htm) After the defeat of the confederacy, General Lee accepted a position as president of a tiny college. At a salary of $1500 a year this consumed all of his new civilian life. A man who had commanded thousands of young men in battle, now wanted to prepare a few hundred of them for the duties of peace. The countrymen of Robert E. Lee saw how a born winner loses, and to them in that defeat he won his most lasting victory. There is an art of losing, and Robert E. Lee is its finest teacher. In a democracy, where opposing viewpoints regularly meet for a test of ballots, and compromise is imperative for the successful operation of the system, it is good for society to know how to lose occasionally, and how to yield peacefully for the sake of freedom. The man who fought against the Union exemplified unity in an unconventional manner. In the masterful novel Killer Angels by Michael Shaara General Lee’s powerful character was very well portrayed. The development of this General, who so gallantly led so many men to battle for a cause he devoted his heart and soul to, was depicted to be just that. Mr. Shaara does an excellent job of explaining to even the most elementary reader the power and respect that General Lee demanded. “Mr. Shaara’s ability to tell a complex story with clarity is the focal point of Killer Angels.” (Louis J. Rose) The development of General Lee’s character in the cinema production Gettysburg by Tom Berenger was, however, lackluster at best. The book depicted General Lee in the way people want a leader to be. General Lee in Killer Angels seemed to have the same divine power Moses had on the Red Sea. People seemed to part in his presence. He would walk into a room and everyone would fall deathly silent, waiting in anticipation to learn what he had to say. In the movie people showed proper respect but they did not halt mid step, turn and salute the General as they seemed to in the book. General Lee did not appear to be the superhuman character he did in the novel. Authors posses the ability to delve more deeply into detail in their novels than directors are able to in their movies, but the development of characters can attain the same level if so desired. Mr. Berenger seemed to overlook one the biggest characters not only in Mr. Shaara’s novel, but in the civil war as well. By not developing General Lee’s character to its fullest there was much lost in the transition from text to screen. General Lee was a man to be feared and respected and unfortunately some of these qualities were abandoned in the film.


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