Thursday, January 19, 2017

Silence and fixity are forms of deference

I'm going through some short stories with the boys and need to remind myself that we need to read Ambrose Bierce (among others) when we go through the U.S. Civil War again. They will add some depth to their studies.

We just went over Bierce's most famous short story, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," and of course they loved the ending twist. Having read it several times, I still find parts of it to marvel over each time. Except for the name. I don't remember too many Farquhars when I was growing up in Alabama, but then this is the northern part of the state he's describing.

My favorite part this time through the story was the description of the Union soldiers facing the bridge in anticipation of the hanging. These are veterans of carnage and death, where what they're about to behold is just an everyday occurrence. Bierce's war stories are at their most appealing for me in their quiet certainty and respect for the participants:
Death is a dignitary who when he comes announced is to be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him. In the code of military etiquette silence and fixity are forms of deference.

Glancing back through some of his stories, it wouldn't have been out of place to amend that by saying, "Especially those most familiar with him."

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