Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose BierceI've come to realize that the word "sin" is not in the Devil's Dictionary. For all the wondrous details -quotes and whatnot- that describe the other words in...

Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce

I've come to realize that the word "sin" is not in the Devil's Dictionary. For all the wondrous details -quotes and whatnot- that describe the other words in the dictionary, I find it strange that the word "sin" is exempt from the book.
Was it the author's intention to imply that "the devil does not recognize sin" or was it merely a word he overlooked?

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MaudlinStreet's profile pic

MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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To the original poster, I'm sure that he intended to suggest that the devil would not recognize sin. Or perhaps, wouldn't want his readers to know of such a thing. Pierce was one of the great, though often overlooked, American horror writers, and he enjoyed playing with occult and supernatural concepts. Another suggestion could be that he felt sin would be too big a concept to handle in the format of a devil's dictionary. I imagine that the entry for that word would be quote long, and maybe he left it out for editing purposes.

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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It is even mentioned in our 10th or 11th grade Holt Rinehart textbook for general literature students.

  We don't use Holt, and I don't teach American Literature.

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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This is interesting.  I was unaware that Bierce had written such a work.  Perhaps, with it's personal flare, it could be used in conjunction with Johnson's Dictionary which was meant to be all-inclusive.  I just love these satirical works.  Thanks for the thread!

krishna-agrawala's profile pic

krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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I think it is quite normal for people like Ambrose Bierce to do things that appear odd.

gatetochrist's profile pic

gatetochrist | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Honors

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Yes, but the very fact that there are words such as lust, sloth, God, Allah, and the like, but no entry for the word sin just seems odd.

epollock's profile pic

epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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It is even mentioned in our 10th or 11th grade Holt Rinehart textbook for general literature students.

epollock's profile pic

epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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His dictionary, which we study in class after reading An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, is not meant to be taken literally as a dictionary, nor is it to be all inclusive of words that would be in a dictionary. It is more a satirical piece of work with a few personal beliefs thrown in.

krishna-agrawala's profile pic

krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Devil's Dictionary written by Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914) was first published in 1911. Though called dictionary it is more of a satirical work, which seeks to show how people use tend to say one thing and while they actually believe in or mean something else, or how some good ideas and things are used in inappropriate or in harmful ways.. Take for example the definition of "dictionary" as per this work.

Dictionary, n A Malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and elastic. This dictionary, however is a most useful work.

Here Bierce is not giving the meaning of the word "dictionary" that will enable a person not familiar with the word to understand what it means. Rather the definition is intended for the person who know what dictionary is, and aims to point out how people tend to look down upon any usage of language which is not entirely in line with dictionary meaning.

Although this work is identified with Devil, it does not imply that the this book represent thoughts of some evil devil. I believe The word Devil in the title of the book refers to how conservative people might view the author. The reason word "sin" does not find place is, most probably, because a suitable satirical definition fit for inclusion did not occur to Bierce.

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