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With Their Last Breath

“Death is a dignitary who when he comes announced is to be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him (Bierce 1-2).” Death was ultimately present throughout much of both short stories, his sudden and striking hand took the life of many during the Civil War. Each moment of battle was soiled with sweat, blood, and tears of the soldiers. The bodies of fathers, brothers, and friends littered the battlefield, and often the death passed over members closer to home. Not only were those whose lives were lost affected, but the families of the brave men were affected devastatingly as well. The author Mark Twain approached the suddenness of death in his story “A Private History of a Campaign that Failed”. Ambrose Bierce also captured the sharp essence of death in his tale of Peyton Farquhar in “An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge”.
Ambrose Bierce displays the theme of “the suddenness of death” with such a clarity even though it does not truly appear until the very last sentence of his short story. His distortion of reality is not realized until readers have fought alongside and cheered for the main protagonist Farquhar. In the first section it is learned that a man is scheduled to be executed, fleeting moments of longing for his wife and children flash through his mind. In one sudden moment the words “The sergeant stepped aside (Bierce 2)” are read. The weight of the sergeant being the only thing holding him onto life for a brief second more. In this second between life and death, Farquhar remembers the moment that led him to the noose. A simple and caring gesture for a soldier supposedly of his own Confederacy was tinged with betrayal, it had sold him to Death and there was no escape from...

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...mselves after killing their brothers? Not always were they brothers of blood, but they were all brothers of one nation before the succession. The number of men whose lives were lost were brutal and fast, even the deaths that were drawn out had a sense of quickness. Each man, woman, and child who died during the war had that sudden moment when their last breath left their fragile body.

Works Cited

Bierce, Ambrose. "An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge. Fiction: The Server Collection. Web. 12 Dec 2013 http://fiction.eserver.org/short/occurrence_at_owl_creek.html.

Greenberg, Amy S. "This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War." Civil War History (2009): 82-84. Book Review.

Twain, Mark. "A Private History of a Campaign that Failed". Short Stories. East of the Web. 2011. Web. 12 Dec 2013. http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/PriHis.shtml

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