Questions for ambrose bierce’s civil war stories (selected stories)
1. Analyze the way the gallantry and nobility of war are contrasted with its brutality and violence in Bierce’s stories. Give a specific example that illustrates each of these positions. Is it possible to say which position Bierce favors?
2. Look at page 11, at the middle of that long paragraph in “What I Saw at Shiloh” where Bierce starts to describe being attacked. He says, “[t]hen—I can’t describe it—the forest seemed all at once to flame up… .”
Also, examine page 14, the end of the top paragraph, where he writes, “[f]augh! I cannot catalogue the charms of these gallant gentlemen… .”
Also, examine the last three paragraphs of the story, “Chickamauga,” where the reader discovers the child is a deaf mute. Why is this point relevant? How does the child’s garbled reaction to the violence comment on the limits of language? Why does Bierce use these interruptions: “I can’t describe it” and “faugh!” in “What I Saw at Shiloh”? What do they indicate about his attitude towards language?
3. Consider Bierce’s stories together. What major themes does Bierce investigate with these stories? Choose a specific example from one of the stories and use it to analyze the larger picture of war Bierce draws for us.