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Show how a reader Responds to the individuals in Bierce's short stories as men defined by the specific time and place in which they live and as extraordinary characters.

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Introduction

Show how a reader Responds to the individuals in Bierce's short stories as men defined by the specific time and place in which they live and as extraordinary characters. Ambrose Gwinett Bierce (1842-1862), the talented author of many highly original stories, lived for 21 years. His stories illustrate in a vivid and disturbing detail, a period of American history, specifically, The American Civil War. It is clear that Bierce's participation in the Civil War was a defining episode of his life, and one that inspired his fiction. Bierce was a topographical engineer, who fought in many different battles: this first-hand exposure to the war can be felt in each of his stories: indeed, each story describes vividly the fate of a combatant who is involved in a specific moment of the war. Each of the characters in the stories studied, 'An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,' 'A Baffled Ambuscade,' and 'Three and One are One,' reflect the horror of the war Bierce experienced. Bierce clearly portrays the characters as figures whose lives are wholly changed by the time in which they lived, and their involvement in the war. In 'An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge', Peyton Farquar, the central character, a southerner, is clearly a victim of the war, and one whom we sympathise with. ...read more.

Middle

After he returns 2 years later anxious to reunite with his family, he is again ignored, and not welcomed in a manner expected. Lassiter tries to communicate with his family, 'Father! Cried the young man, springing forward with outstretched hand - Father!' The father then stands motionless and goes back into the house. 'Bitterly disappointed, humiliated, inexpressibly hurt and altogether unnerved, the soldier dropped upon a rustic in deep dejection'. The reader deeply sympathises with Lassiter, as his family did not provide him with the recognition wanted. However, what further distinguishes Barr Lassiter is his realisation that the next day, on a second visit his family was dead: 'Lassiter's astonishment was extreme,' and as he saw 'fire-blackened foundations of stone,' instead of his house, his only words were, 'And my family-where are they?' It is only at this moment that Lassiter realises that the encounter with his family the day before was spectral: in fact, the whole episode empahasis to Lassiter the awful extent of hi loss. Lassiter is not the only figure who goes through such an occult and disturbing experience. After Major Seidel (in A Baffled Ambuscade) learns that his trooper, Dunning, has gone by himself to face the enemy, he is forced to follow him out of duty as leader of the expedition. ...read more.

Conclusion

This path led him to his wife and as he got closer to her, suddenly 'he feels a stunning blow upon the back of the neck.' What Bierce then reveals is that the escape was imagined, a deep psychological rendering of a dying man's need to see his wife. By these supernatural encounters Bierce also transforms his characters to show us how complex they are, and how deeply affected each is by the war. Barr Lassiter is forced to look in the eye toll the war takes on his family when he revisits them as ghostly apparition. A reader is made to see and appreciate the extent to which each of the character in Bierce's stories suffer. Death plays an important role in all three characters' lives, and without the supernatural encounter they all go through, Bierce could not show the depth t which these characters are traumatised by the war. For example, Farquar experience an urgent desire to go on living and loving, which is denied in his death. Barr Lassiter has forced upon him his family's rejection in his spectral visit to his home, where he encounters them as ghosts. It is seeing the ghost of one of his troopers, whom he was suppose to protect, that traumatised Major Seidel. The supernatural element emphasis the tragedy - and enlarge our sense of who these individuals are. And it is that, that makes a Bierce's story, a Bierce's story. Mahmoud Yehia El Hazek English Coursework 3-Dec-2002 1 ...read more.

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