Ambrose Bierce

Start Your Free Trial

What is the story Killed at Resaca saying about heroism? The narrator expresses some ambivalence towards Lt. Brayle by using expressions like "vain of his courage" and "the cause of the carnage." How...

What is the story Killed at Resaca saying about heroism? The narrator expresses some ambivalence towards Lt. Brayle by using expressions like "vain of his courage" and "the cause of the carnage." How can these ambiguities be interpreted and analyzed in order to create a substantial discussion?

Expert Answers info

Gwen Lesch eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write807 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Ambrose Bierce's short story "Killed at Resaca" is a commentary on the meaninglessness of heroism. 

The story follows the battle practices and foolish death of Herman Brayle, a Lieutenant in the Union Army who has been brought in "from some Ohio regiment" to serve as an officer due to the general's belief that to choose a man to lead a brigade who belongs to that brigade would result in distracting jealousy. We get our first sense of what it means to be heroic in the description of the general's reasoning:

Under such circumstances, a man's services had to be very distinguished indeed to be heard of by his family and the friends of his youth; and "the speaking trump of fame" was a trifle hoarse from loquacity, anyhow. 

In other words, it's not enough to simply serve your country in a war to be labeled heroic by your peers; rather, one must do something extraordinary. This seems to suggest the arbitrary nature of the term: that heroism is something to be sought after, like a prize......

(The entire section contains 597 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial