Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Ambrose Bierce wrote volumes of acid, satirical prose in his long career as a journalist and even managed to get a somewhat pretentious twelve-volume edition of his collected works published. Most of it, because of its time-bound nature, was doomed to oblivion by the time the edition appeared. One of his works that continues to survive is the collection of short stories titled Tales of Soldiers and Civilians. Bierce’s literary reputation rests largely on this book.
The bland title of the collection stands in ironic contrast to the vision of life that informs the stories themselves. Indeed, Bierce seems to have attached bland, noncommittal titles to most of his stories intentionally. Titles such as “Chickamauga,” “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” and “The Mocking-Bird” tell little of the macabre nature of these tales. Bierce seems to have chosen his mild titles with deliberate irony. When this volume was reprinted in 1898, it was given a more meaningful title, In the Midst of Life. The irony is clearer and more indicative of the true content of the book: In the midst of life is death.
Death is the sole absolute of this book, the common denominator of each story, and the final proposition in a logic of ruthless necessity. Each protagonist is part of a greater logic; each is subordinate to the plot, and each is cursed. Death is separated from life, is raised up as a separate principle antagonistic to life, and...
(The entire section is 1518 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Tales of Soldiers and Civilians Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!