Ambrose Bierce: A Realist Essay

1488 words - 6 pages

Literary movements are defined by the contributed philosophies of the poets, screenwriters, and authors of a certain time period. As an editor, journalist, philosopher, and author, Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914) contended the Romantic movement style in many ways, which some people considered harsh and bland. The themes of his works usually involved the brutality of war, perception of time, and reality of certain situations. Bierce used incredibly precise detail and everyday diction to depict unidealized life events to their most validity. Bierce’s life experiences aided in the creation of his Realistic philosophy and style of writing, which is ideally exemplified in his short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.”
The meticulous view of life that Bierce had in both his philosophy and his writings classifies him as a Realist writer. Realism is thought to have started in France in the mid 1800s as a reaction to the preceding Romanticism movement. Realism minds, similar to the philosophies of Descartes and Locke, believe that the truth should be discovered through the senses. This doctrine created Realism authors’ main focus: to express the basic truth of an experience without any artificiality or artistic conventions that altered the meaning. “In American literature, the term ‘realism’ encompasses the period of time from the Civil War to the turn of the century during which others wrote fiction devoted to accurate representation and an exploration of American lives in various contexts” (Campbell par. 3). Authors of this time created very precise works with scanty tangents from the real event itself. Characters in Realism writings were not extravagant people seen in the Romantic movement, but ordinary humans partaking in basic events and circumstances. Additionally, the characters themselves deemed more important than action and plot (Campbell par. 5). Typical of Realism works, the author’s voice was rarely heard through comments and asides, but objectively through the characters’ actions and attitudes. The authors often used a satirical tone to criticize or expose an individual or society with humor, exaggeration, or irony. The topics and opinions reflected in Realism writers’ works were usually tainted by their own real life experiences themselves.
Ambrose Bierce’s life experiences heavily influenced his writing style and philosophy. He was born on June 24, 1842 in Meigs county, Ohio. He worked as a printer's apprentice for a small Indiana newspaper, which is where literature became a common element in his life. In 1860, Bierce enlisted in the Union Army and fought in many momentous battles in the Civil War. Bierce’s lurid war experiences created the inspiration for the topics of many works and created his writing philosophy of Realism. After the war he traveled with a military expedition to San Francisco (where his infamous critical reputation gained him the nickname “Bitter Bierce”) and left the army to begin his literary career. Bierce’s...

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