The Civil War, it has often been noted, is our Trojan War. Homer composed the Iliad more than 300 years after the victorious Greeks left the burning Troy. It may be that 126 years is too short a time for us to produce the great tragic epic celebrating our test of heroism. There was ”Gone With the Wind•, a tragic epic but not, of course, of Homeric quality. The novel we pick up today, ”Beloved•, approaches that class, but is more nearly an ”Odyssey•, a comic epic, than an ”Iliad•. That we would even suggest the comparison is of course outlandish. But this novel is of major stature, it is about a journey, and its aim is to set one's land in order. The comparison may have occurred to you. ”Beloved •is not about the Civil War nor any of its military heroes, but it encompasses that "irresistible conflict." And its action centers about emancipation, and the painful subject of slavery. I shall suggest no detailed allegory, but this novel is a subtle and powerful testimony to the destiny of our nation.
Cowan, Donald, "The Relinquishment of the Past, The Acceptance of a New Epoch" (1990). Principals’ Institute at DIHC. 6.