Many Civil War novels are ambitious, but a few stand out because of their scope. These novels defy easy categorization in one of the previously mentioned groups; they can fit, with ease, into a number of them. Among the most technically innovative of the Civil War novels is Evelyn Scott The Wave ( 1929). Using a panoramic technique, Scott relates a number of individual incidents that together form the history of the war like an overwhelming wave. Another novel that features an ambitious sweep of time, if not place, is Ross Lockridge Jr.'s Raintree County ( 1948). Set on one day--July 4, 1892--in the life of John Wickliff Shawnessy, the novel moves back and forth through time as Johnny remembers key events from his life before, during, and after the war in Raintree County, Indiana. His life reveals both the idealism and optimism of the antebellum America, the savage disillusionment of the war years, and his struggle to find a new and satisfying life in the corrupt years following the conflict. Another novel of sweeping scope, and tremendous popularity, is Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind ( 1936). Although best known for its romance between Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler, the novel offers a complex portrait of Southern society before, during, and after the war.
Even in the twentieth century, the Civil War remains central to the American literary imagination. The conflict of over a century ago with its legacy of slavery, secession, regionalism, and sectional war remains a vital part of not only our heritage but of our contemporary life.
Perhaps the Civil War retains its grasp because many of the issues and events of the war are equally relevant today. The past is never far from us; it lives with us still.
Adams Richard. Traveller. New York: Knopf, 1988.
Alcott Louisa May. Hospital Sketches. 1869. Reprint, Chester, CT: Applewood Books, n.d.
Auchincloss Louis. Watchfires. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1982.
Bierce Ambrose. The Civil War Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1970.
Bishop John Peale. Many Thousands Gone. New York: Scribner's Sons, 1931. Brown, Rita Mae. High Hearts. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1986.
Cain James M. Mignon. New York: Dial Press, 1962.
-----. Past All Dishonor. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1946.
Cather Willa. Sapphira and the Slave Girl. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1940.
Chesnutt Charles. The Colonel's Dream. 1905. Reprint, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Gregg Press, 1968.