I started reading "The Devil's Dictionary" and I was more than a little lost. First of all (this is blondeness showing though) it's like a real dictionary! I expected it to be a novel...I'm not sure why. I guess that fact seems pretty obvious, but I just never suspected the title to be so literal.
As I began to read, I just couldn't seem to get into the author's head. I understood the words and their meanings, but so what? What purpose did Bierce have?
I went back and re-read the introduction and that helped a lot. The whole work makes more sense to me when it's referred to as "The Cynic's Dictionary." After I got that into my head, I really got into the reading. I consider myself an optimist, but I also have a twisted sense of humor: I find Bierce's cynicism and contempt for the world oddly amusing.
As I was searching "Devil's" and Bierce, I kept coming upon the the word 'satire.' I've heard this word before, but I had no idea what it meant. I did a little research and came up with some information that really helped me to relate to Bierce and understand his works more. I got this excerpt from an essay and I think it sums-up 'satire' pretty well.
"Satire is a literary manner which blends a critical attitude with humor and wit to the end that human institutions or humanity may be improved. Satire is the literary art of diminishing or derogating a subject by making it ridiculous and evoking towards it attitudes of amusement, contempt, scorn, and indignation. The true satirist is conscious of the frailty of institutions of man’s devising and attempts through laughter, not so much to tear them down, but to ridicule their folly and shortcomings to inspire a remodeling, if not of the institutions, then at least of the reader’s view of them."
Obviously, Bierce and his writing encompass most of these characteristics. As I was reading "Devil's"...well, it put a lot of things in perspective. Even today, people get up-in-arms about ridiculous ideas and ideals. I am guilty of these of these notions and that's why this sarcastic and sardonic piece of literature appeals to me. I make absurtities into huge deals and for what? So I can get upset and act like an idiot? Webster's dictionary defines 'cynic' as "a faultfinding captious critic; especially : one who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest," but I got more out of 'Devil's' than that; I realize that I'm walking a thin line and, if I'm not careful, my views are going to start mimicking Bierce's pessimistic outlook. In addition to that whole big huge rant, the whole dictionary is funny...I laughed out a few times (and got some interesting stares in the computer lab.) All together, I enjoyed this work and I actually think that this has been favorite in the class so far. Hmmm, maybe Bierce isn't so bad after all.