An allusion is an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly. The technique is used by many authors to contribute to the development of certain elements in the literary work. In the book Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, the authors alludes to many famous works and points in history to further develop the theme, but also the conflict of the story. One of the characters, Longstreet, notices the song “Bonnie Blue Flag” by Henry McCarthy is playing often around the camp, but when looking at the famous Civil War song’s lyrics, readers know that Shaara is making a claim about the conflict of the war. Many people that lived in the United States, and around the world, at the time of the war, only thought the south was fighting in favor of slavery, but that wasn’t necessarily true. Many times the southerners had to explain to others what the south actually thought the war was about, which was their rights. This was a very debated topic in the war and in the song “Bonnie Blue Flag,” a popular southern song composed in the 1860’s, the main chorus says “Hurrah! Hurrah! For Southern rights, hurrah!” (McCarthy 9,10). The fact that many of the troops in the south are singing this song shows that the south truly believes they are fighting for their rights and not slavery, which is one of the main conflicts of the war. Without Shaara alluding to this, readers wouldn’t have seen the war’s conflict as clearly as they did with the allusion.
Another example of allusion in the novel is when Fremantle, a representative for England, reflects about the war. Fremantle is observing to help decide if the Queen of England should get involved in America’s war, and he thinks to himself “Perhaps [the southerners] will rejoin the Queen and it will be as it was… If the English came to help would it not be possible? That this soil would once again be English soil?” (Shaara 159).In Fremantle’s thought, Shaara includes a subtle allusion to the Revolutionary War. When Fremantle says “it will be as it was” is relating to the time before the revolution, where America was ruled by England. If the English came from Britain, the south could have a better chance of the south winning, and Britain could, once again, dominate the United States. The allusion incorporated here further develops the conflict of the needed help from Britain, but also the way that the south viewed the north. The colonist saw Britain as tyrannical and in the Civil War, this is how the south viewed the north.The mentioning and allusion to the Revolutionary War would not have clearly brought the conflict felt by the south as easily as it was with the allusion. Both of the allusions also help add to the theme of the novel for the south. Though their motives appear to be misinterpreted and they a feeling overpowered by another group, they keep fighting and they don’t give up. This reveals to readers the persistence that the south is exemplifying throughout their actions and it may be a trait that readers should take upon themselves.
The use of allusion can be subtle and often times, has to be looked for by the readers. By looking at lyrics, not stated outright, and historic events, more can be concluded and revealed about conflict and theme, specifically how the south is feeling at a certain point during the Civil War.