Thesis Statement

Ambrose Bierce’s "Chickamauga" is representative of his typical subject matter, theme, and style.


I. Introduction

II. Biographical Sketch

A. Military experiences

B. Effect of the loss of his wife and eldest son

III. Bierce’s subject matter

IV. Bierce’s themes

A. Supernatural themes

B. Military themes

V. Bierce’s style of writing

VI. Bierce’s subject matter in "Chickamauga"

A. Civil War

B. Supernatural

VII. Bierce’s theme in "Chickamauga"

VIII. Bierce’s style in "Chickamauga"

A. Shifting points of view

B. Adult and child perspectives

IX. Conclusion

Ambrose Bierce’s "Chickamauga" is representative of his typical subject matter, theme, and style. His subject matter often deals with the Civil War and its horrors. Having served in several battles during the Civil War, Bierce strives to display, through his writings, the true devastation which comes as a result of wars. His theme, although sometimes macabre, emphasizes the reality of warfare. Again, Bierce is relying on his own war experiences in order to have his audience empathize with his characters. Ambrose Bierce’s style of writing includes shifting of views from one character to another. With his own unique subject matter, theme, and style, Bierce develops stories which interest readers from generation to generation.

Ambrose Bierce was born in 1842 (May 368). At the age of 19, Ambrose Bierce joined the 9th Indiana Volunteers, in 1861, for the United States of America (Appelbaum iii). He was in several of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War (Appelbaum iii). Bierce was at Chickamauga, where 34,000 men lost their lives (Appelbaum iii). During battles, he risked his own life several times to rescue his fallen comrades (Appelbaum iii). Once, at Kennesaw Mountain in northern Georgia, he himself was seriously wounded (Appelbaum iii). Bierce recovered, though, and he went on to write many stories dealing with the Civil War. The battles he participated in and the things he saw in those battles gave him inspiration for his stories (Hall 87).

Ambrose Bierce used his experiences in the Civil War to understand and to convey to other people through his writing that war is not glorious--it is horrible. Even though Bierce wrote more supernatural stories, he is better known for his Civil War short stories (Hall 87). Of a total of ninety-three short stories, fifty-three were supernatural (Gullette). Bierce was able to write convincing stories with less than one thousand words (Gullette). Many of his writings are less than three thousand words (Gullette). Some of his short stories had a Civil War and a supernatural aspect to them. "Chickamauga" is an example of one of these stories. Sharan K. Hall described Ambrose Bierce’s stories as having "an attraction for death in its more bizarre forms, featuring depictions of mental deterioration, uncanny manifestations, and expressing the horror of existence in a meaningless universe" (87). Many of Bierce’s stories shock the reader, and the stories tell about a nightmarish reality (May 370). James K. Folsom described Ambrose Bierce’s writing like this:

Many people think Ambrose Bierce is obsessed with death; incapable of compassion. A less moralistic and biographical reevaluation of Bierce’s work, however, reveals his intellectual fascination with the effect of the supernatural on the human imagination. (222)

Alan Gullette suggested that maybe the reason Bierce is so dark and talks about such morbid things is because the separation from his wife and the suicide of his eldest son made him bitter. Gullette suggested that maybe this bitterness strengthened the effect of his pen and darkened his satire and morbid fiction to an extent perhaps no other author has achieved. In fact, Bierce earned the nickname of "Bitter Bierce" (Probst 466).

Even though Bierce wrote short stories that dealt with supernatural themes, he is better known for his military themes (Folsom 225). The reason is that Bierce was once in the United States Army during the Civil War, and he was familiar with the armed forces (Folsom 225). In Bierce’s military stories, the theme is an antiwar one (May 369). His writings center on warfare and the cruel joke it plays on humanity (Probst 466). Ambrose Bierce wants to destroy the view of many people that war is a place to gain glory. Bierce wants to replace this viewpoint with the images of people dying and what war is really like. War is horrible, and it is a place where people die.

Ambrose Bierce uses point of view well (May 370). He shifts