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one of the missing

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Introduction

One of the Missing is based on a federal sniper named Jerome Searing, who is trapped under a collapsed outpost, staring down the barrel of his own gun which is apparently cocked. Bierce gives us a realistic description of Searings strengths and weaknesses. We are told that he is 'an incomparable marksman, young, hardy, intelligent and insensible to fear.' Unlike Farquhar he has joined the army but their missions are similar; as he does 'not serve in the ranks' but 'he may perform services for which no provision is made in orders and army regulations. At the beginning of the story Searing is sent out to spy on the movements of the confederate army. We get a strong sense the he is in his element as he stealthily crept through the forest. This is emphasised by the effective simile 'his pulse was as regular, his nerves were as steady as if he was trying to trap a sparrow.' Bierce is also realistic in how he portrays Searing's callousness. This is shown when he considers firing on the retreating confederates, calculating 'where he could plant his shot with the best hope of making a widow or an orphan or a childless mother - perhaps all 3.' ...read more.

Middle

Bierce emphasises that it is he who orders the firing of a field gun which brings down the structure searing is hiding in. Bierce describes the sound of the shell as like 'the wings of a great bird swooping down upon its prey.' From this part in the story events spiral out of Searings control. The most obvious example of this is that he is now apparently facing death from his own rifle. The final part of the story is a highly realistic portrayal of Searing's deterioration from fearless soldier to gibbering wreck. As in the 'escape' scene of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge Bierce shows himself extremely capable of presenting the physiological side of those in extreme and possibly fatal conditions, e.g. Searing begins to imagine the bullet from his own gun has been fired and is penetrating his brain more deeply until its progress is arrested by the wood at the back of his head. He is also mesmerized by little ring of metal, the barrel of his gun, and is so terrified that he loses all thoughts of home, his wife and children, of country, of glory.' ...read more.

Conclusion

Both of these stories are memorable because of the realistic way in which they potray war. The skills and ambitions of both searing and Farquhar end in death and there is wide ironic gaps between their desire for success and distinction and the fate that they both suffer. Although we are shown of the effect war has had on both men, Bierce is also aware of the cost of civilians; as both men leave wives and families behind. This is particularly ironic to Searing as he is attracted to the prospect of making confederate widows and orphans. A major theme in both stories, as we have seen, id that human life becomes devalued in war time and soldiers become impersonal and callous when it comes to taking human life and it can become somewhat of a habit. Contrast can be made between both titles of the stories, as they both describe the events in their story to be impersonal and a regular occurrence during time of war. Through out both stories Bierce has effectively used language to convey the grim realities and both stories leave memorable scenes i.e. after Peyton's imagined escape that he is hanging under Owl Creek Bridge or that Searing's appearance has been altered to the point where his own brother does not recognise him. ...read more.

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