Unseen commentary on an extract from "Killed at Resaca" by Ambrose Bierce.

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Unseen Commentary Killed at Resaca by Ambrose Bierce The excerpt is from 'Killed at Resaca' by Ambrose Bierce which was written in 1881. Given its date of publication and the knowledge that it follows the American Civil War in 1862; after an analysis of the text we can deduce that it is a work of fiction. Initially the extract positions the reader in the middle of a bloody battlefield where a valiant soldier; Herman Brayle meets his end. His death concludes the battle his comrades and his enemy honour his death, the battle had left behind a trail of bereavement of ordinary people. The narrator is delegated with Brayle's personal belongings-a Russian leather pocketbook. After this the text shifts to a different period, a time space of one year. The narrator finally inspects the pocketbook and discovers a love letter for the lieutenant, from his lover Marian Mendenhall. After his the narrator arrives to California at the home of Miss Mendenhall. The narrator hands over the honoured lieutenant's pocketbook to Miss Mendenhall, in return she cold-heartedly threw into the hearth. The extract ends with the narrator lying about the death of his lieutenant responding by saying "he was bitten by a snake".


The narrator's loyalty is again displayed when he mentions that the blood of Herman Brayle was 'the blood of the truest and bravest heart that ever beat.' This form of heightened praise exemplifies the loyalty and high regards the narrator held in regard for Brayle. The centralized element of the extract is Herman Brayle's love letter which remains in focus in a majority of the extract. Herman Brayle is initially presented to the reader as a person who is firm in fulfilling his purpose, yet is conflicted in his inability to turn back when the writer writes; 'He could not go forward, he would not turn back; he stood awaiting death'. Here the writer cleverly employs the use of a juxtaposition to contrast his unyielding will to fight in comparison to his helplessness - that is against the demise that awaits him. From the beginning of the extract till his death Brayle is depicted as a valiant man whose only allegiance lies with honour and country. . However, this esteemed perception initially made by the reader on Brayle, is challenged with the revelation that his actions weren't based on the assumed bravery, but rather on desire to prove to his lover that he was not a man of cowardice as accused by Mendenhall's love letter.


This approach, although enabling the reader to gain a more personal, interpretive understanding of the events in the passage, restricts the writer's ability to explore the other characters in greater detail due to the narrator's bias judgment towards the other characters. The structure of the poem features paragraphs of varying lengths. The opening sentences remain very concise and brief, in order to build up a fast-pace and tense moment of Brayle's death. The length in paragraphs is then lengthened as the narrator gives a rich, detailed account of the honouring of Brayle's death. Moreover, the extract features dialogue, in which through what is being spoken, allows the reader insight into the characters. Bierce also includes a rhetorical question in the passage, in order to provoke the reader to think about what is being said. Finally, the closing line of the passage features a brief, yet captivating sentence in which its unexpected nature leaves a lasting impression on the reader. In Conclusion, 'killed in Resaca' is a very compelling piece or literature. Bierce effectively illustrates an engaging plot that leads to a charged confrontation, thus making the reader attentive to what is happening. Through excellent delivery and crafty diction, Bierce has produced an alluring piece of writing which hooks the reader into the plot and story line. Word count: 1768

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