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AMBROSE BIERCE'S: USE OF FLASHBACKS AND THE SUPERNATURAL IN HIS SHORT STORIES
Ambrose Bierce is known for using both flashbacks and the supernatural in his
short stories "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" and "The Death of Haplin Frayser."
Bierce was born on June 24, 1842, in House Cave Creek, Meigs County, Ohio. He also
disappeared in Mexico while acting as an observer of that country's civil war in January
1, 1914. Beirce's literary reputation is based primarily on his short stories about the Civil War and the supernatural. "Mancken considered him to be the "First writer of fiction ever to treat war realistically." Bierce grew up around the military, he entered a military academy in his teen years and then later on in his life was involved in war. He was involved in the U.S. Army, served with the Ninth Indiana Infantry Regiment as a drummer boy and Buell's Army of the Ohio. Many believe Bierce wrote about wars so realistically because he experienced war first hand. Many of Bierce's works are compared to Edgar Allan Poe because their stories share an attraction to death in its more bizarre forms. Bierce also worked as a novelist, journalist, poet, essayist, and a critic. Bierce has also written many other works which include The Devil's Dictionary, "The Secret of Macarger's Gulch" and "The Middle Toe of the Right Foot."
In the short story "An Occurrance atOwl Creek Bridge" Bierce uses flashbacks of
the soldiers in war to descibe what happened to them throught out the course of war.
Many of the soldiers have scary flash backs. In the short story "An Occurrance at Owl
Creek Bridge" Bierce describes exactly what the soldiers went through in battle and gives details of deaths that happened. Although Beirce's figures are not very well
developed in any of his short stories, each story expresses a deep psychological trauma,
one that ends in madness or loss. In war the characters become part of the military.
Bierce either tells alot about the hero in his short stories or as little as he pleases. So the hero in "An Occurrance at Owl Creek Bridge" is a spy who is about to be hanged. In this short story many people take for granted the reason he is being hanged and what his beliefs are. Bierce provides the minimum of character description: Peyton Farquhar was a well-to-do planter of an old and highly respected Alabama family.
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Who this man is makes very little difference in the story what really matters is how he reacts to war. This is why Bierce doesn't take much time out of his story to tell who each character is.
In "An Occurrance at Owl Creek Bridge" Bierce uses many examples of flashbacks. He uses flashbacks because many soldies in was suffer from flashbacks. In the flashbacks they see things that have happened to them in the war or things that they have seen happen to people in the war. The main purpose of the flashbacks is to make an
intensification of personal experience. Solomon 185). An example of a flashback in
"The Occurrance at Owl Creek Bridge" is when Farquhar broke his neck. Vainly he sought by tracing life backward in memory, to reproduce the moment of his sin, scenes and incidents came crowding tumultuously into his mind, one picture effacing another, or commingling with it in confussion and obscurity, but nowhere ciuld he catch a glimpse of what he sought.
Bierce's short story "The Death of Haplin Frayser" is about is about what is now
called the Oedipus Complex. The main character in this story is Haplin Frayser. This
story is all about trying to figure out where exactly Frayser is now that he is dead. A
quote that sums up this entire story is: For by death is wrought the greater change than hath been shown. Whereas in general the spirit that removed cometh back upon occassion,
and is sometimes seen of those in flesh (appearing in the form of the body it bore) yet it hath happened that the veritable body without the spirit hath walked. And it is attasted to those encountering who have lived to speak thereon that a lich so raised up hath no natural affection, nor remembrance thereof, but only hate. Also, it is known that some spirits which in life were benign become by death evil altogether. (Bierce 15).
In this short story Bierce uses more of the supernatural than flashbacks like in "The
Occurrance at Owl Creek Bridge." The primary requirement of a writer, according to
Bierce is that he produce something interesting, and it was this very concern with "the
interesting" which led Bierce to choose unusual characters and situations. Many think
that all Bierce writes about is the death of men. Yes, he does write about death, but the
way he puts things is so amazing people can't help but to read his stories and enjoy them. "...only two are common to all men - that moment when they enter life and that instant when they depart from it." "Consequently, Bierce's representation of man's struggle against death, presented in realistic terms, could very easily arise from an impulse other than that of wanting to shock the reader's sensibilities with horrible details." Many people misread toe works of Bierce and thing he is obsessed with death and the away people die. The fact that many people refuse to think about death, even death in a nonviolent way form, may be partly responsible for this type of misreading of Bierce. George Sterling sums up Bierce's work very well by saying: There was a ray [in Bierse's writing technique] that touched only man in his hour of pain, of terror, of death -- a ray that revealed what we hesitate to behold and which leaves the weaker beholders ungrateful for the vision a accorded. Bierce also dealt with suffering, terror and death. An example of the was Bierce uses the supernatural in "The Death of Haplin Frayser" is in the beginning of the story when he Haplin Frayser is walking along and is trying to figure out where exactly he is. "He lived in St. Helena, but where he lives now is uncertain, for he is dead." .
Inconclusion, Ambrose Bierce is considered to be one of the most important
rediscovered American writers. Bierce is known for using both flashbacks and the
supernatural in his short stories. In the short story "An Occurrance at Owl Creek Bridge"
Bierce uses maily flashbacks because that short story is all about war. Bierce was one of the only writers who was ever able to write about war in such a realistic way. People
believe this was because he went to a military academy and not only that, but he was also
involved in war. He was involved in the U.S. Army, served with the Ninth Indiana
Infantry Regiment as a drummer boy and Buell's Army of the Ohio. In the short story
"The Death of Haplin Frayser" Bierce uses mainly the supernatural because it is all about
trying to figure oue where Haplin Frayser is now living that he has died. Ambrose Bierce did not only write short stories, but he also worked as a novelist, journalist, poet, essayist, and a critic.