Bierce: The Wickedest Man in San Francisco

             Serving as a union soldier in the Civil War, Bierce .

             learned of war' s savageness, and how stupid and degrading .

             it was. His writing style can be contributed to his war .

             time experiences. His works are blunt, brutally realistic, .

             and his attacks on others in the San Francisco Examiner, .

             (American Authors 1600-1900 76) were nowhere near .

             politically correct. Bierce's short stories "often hinge on .

             an ironic surprising conclusion" (Contemporary Authors 48), .

             as in one of his better known works "An Occurrence At Owl .

             Creek Bridge", were the sudden death of a Confederate spy .

             catches us by surprise. A forerunner of the realist .

             movement, Ambrose Bierce's cynical views of live and human .

             existence gave him the nickname, "the wickedest .

             man in San Francisco" (Contemporary Authors 41).

             Although often portrayed as a realist for his accounts .

             on the Civil War, "Bierce was not striving for documentary .

             realism, as he himself admitted"(Short Story Criticism 48). .

             Instead, Bierce was interested in manipulating the reader's .

             viewpoint. The perspective in which the story is written is .

             used to manipulate the reader's viewpoint, for example in .

             "Chickamauga", where a bloody battlefield is seen through .

             the eyes of a deaf child(Short Story Criticism 48), or in .

             "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge", where a man about to be .

             hanged for treason, dreams of his escape. Bierce's often .

             ironic twists leave the reader stunned. As noted by Alfred .

             Kazin, "There is invariably a sudden reversal, usually in a .

             few lines near the end, that takes the story away from the .

             reader, as it were, that overthrows his confidence in the .

             nature of what he has been reading, that indeed overthrows .

             his confidence" (Short Story Criticism 49). For all of .

             this, why is Bierce considered a realist? Bierce, unlike .

             any other short story author before him, was not romantic .

             with his war depictions. He painted in our mind, its .

             gruesomeness, its wastefulness. Bierce's stories depict .

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