Short Stories (after Huck Finn, before Gatsby = Naturalism, Realism, Female Voices) An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge Ambrose Bierce ~ 1842 - 1913 Study Questions/Essays (C.G) • • • • • • • • • Do you sympathize with Farquhar? Explain your answer. Read a short biography of author Bierce. Then explain to what extent Bierce drew upon his own experiences when he wrote "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." Did the Union forces have a right to hang Farquhar without first trying him in a court of law? Write and essay that compares and contrasts "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" with Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart." (Click here for the Poe study guide.) Point out the similarities and differences in the methods the authors use to tell their stories. Write an essay that comments on the impact of the sight and sound imagery in the story. Click here for background information. Bierce tells almost all of the story in the past tense. However, he writes Sentences 2 through 8 of the second-to-last paragraph of the story in the present tense. Why? The last sentence of Part III, Paragraph 19, states: "The wood on either side was full of singular noises, among which–once, twice, and again–he distinctly heard whispers in an unknown tongue." Are these the voices of slaves, whose subhuman existence he could never understand because it was like a foreign language to him? Or do the voices represent someone, or something, else? Bierce points out in his narration that the Owl Creek bridge runs from north to south (or from south to north). Since Peyton Farquhar, a slaveowner, is to be hanged from the bridge, does it thus symbolize the central issue dividing the North and the South? Were there antislavery movements in the South? Were there proslavery movements in the North? Write an essay that informs the reader about both questions. • Learning Goals: • Students will demonstrate their understanding of: • how authors develop suspense through arrangement, foreshadowing, allusion, rising action, and the manipulation of readers’ perceptions of the protagonist; • how readers can discern an author’s point of view by examining motifs: diction, imagery and plot elements; • how authors can manipulate time; • how authors can use imagery along with plot elements as means of foreshadowing; • why archaic word connotations should not be overlooked; • how to identify key words in writing prompts. In Groups of Three-Four • What do you think Bierce was trying to say with this story? • Go back through the story. Describe how the it reads differently the second time. Discuss whether or not there were “signs” in the description. • • • General Grant’s Reference to Owl Creek the Battle of Shiloh (southern Tennessee, April 1862), General Ulysses S. Grant marched his Union forces south into Mississippi on his way to Vicksburg, a strategically important Mississippi River city. At Corinth–a northeastern Mississippi town just south of the Tennessee border and just east of the Alabama border– Grant and General William Starke Rosecrans repulsed a Confederate attack while solidifying control of the town, an important railroad center. In Chapter 26 of his memoirs of 1885 and 1886, Grant refers to Corinth and Owl Creek. (In his short story, Bierce also refers to the Battle of Corinth–and, of course, to Owl Creek.) Here is the passage written by Grant: Preparations were at once made upon the arrival of the new commander for an advance on Corinth. Owl Creek, on our right, was bridged, and expeditions were sent to the north-west and west to ascertain if our position was being threatened from those quarters; the roads towards Corinth were corduroyed and new ones made; lateral roads were also constructed, so that in case of necessity troops marching by different routes could reinforce each other. All commanders were cautioned against bringing on an engagement and informed in so many words that it would be better to retreat than to fight. By the 30th of April all preparations were complete; the country west to the Mobile and Ohio railroad had been reconnoitred, as well as the road to Corinth as far as Monterey twelve miles from Pittsburg. Everywhere small bodies of the enemy had been encountered, but they were observers and not in force to fight battles. Whether the Mississippi Owl Creek is the same Owl Creek over which the railroad bridge passes in northern Alabama is uncertain. However, because Corinth is only a short distance from the Alabama border, it may well be that Owl Creek ran east from Mississippi into Alabama. Realism Time Period: Civil War – turn of the century (+/1860 – 1890) Definition: A faithful representation of reality Inspiration: A renewed interest in scientific method, a systematic study of documenting history, and an influence of rational philosophy Literary Context: Reaction against Romanticism Naturalism Time Period: +/- 1880s – 1940s Definition: seeking to depict life as accurately as possible, without artificial distortions of emotion, idealism, and literary convention. Inspiration: Realism + Darwin, Marx, Freud; growth of U.S. population and urban dwelling; Unchecked Capitalism; Photography Literary Context: Overlaps with, and is an outgrowth of Realism Matthew Brady’s images Matthew Brady Photographs Naturalism Specifically • Humanity is a higher order animal whose character and behavior are, as M. H. Abrams summarizes, entirely determined by two kinds of forces, hereditary and environment (these refer to nature, social and economic forces). • Human beings do not have souls or any mode of participating in a religious or spiritual world beyond the biological realm of nature (any such attempts are acts of self-delusion and wish-fulfillment. ) • The individual's compulsive instincts toward sexuality, hunger, and accumulation of goods are inherited via genetic compulsion and the social and economic forces surrounding his or her upbringing. Annotative Groups for “The Open Boat” • • • • • • • • Group one = The Captain Group two = The Oiler Group three = The Cook Group four = The Correspondent Group five = Color usage Group six = The sea Group seven = Brotherhood Group eight = Point of View of Author shifts Naturalism defined by others Unlike realism, which focuses on literary technique, naturalism implies a philosophical position: for naturalistic writers, since human beings are, in Emile Zola's phrase, "human beasts," characters can be studied through their relationships to their surroundings. Naturalism defined by others • Eric Sundquist comments, "Reveling in the extraordinary, the excessive, and the grotesque in order to reveal the immutable bestiality of Man in Nature, naturalism dramatizes the loss of individuality at a physiological level by making a Calvinism without God its determining order and violent death its utopia" (13). Charlotte Perkins Quote (#2) It is the duty of youth to bring fresh new powers to bear on Social progress. Each generation of young people should be to the world like a vast reserve force to a tired army. They should life the world forward. That is what they are for. Charlotte Perkins Quote • It is not that women are really smallerminded, weaker-minded, more timid and vacillating, but that whosoever, man or woman, lives always in a small, dark place, is always guarded, protected, directed and restrained, will become inevitably narrowed and weakened by it. The woman is narrowed by the home and the man is narrowed by the woman.