Blather, Wince, Repeat

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Sometimes when encountering a piece of literature for a second time, it takes one a few sentences to recall their previous sojourn into the story.  In especially trying circumstances (perhaps the reader is tired or distracted, or the story is complex) one may read with a feeling of vague familiarity, and make it halfway through the text before she remembers she's read the story before. 

I made it to the last sentence before I remembered I read this in high school.

One thing that makes this story forgettable to me is the constant emphasis on the amount of pain Farquhar is in.  Yes, I understand he was being hanged, and that may be a tad uncomfortable, but we get it already.  It got to the point where each time I saw the words "sharp pain," "hurt," or "agonies," I scanned hurriedly on. 

When the big twist at the end of the story was revealed (both that Farquhar was dead and that I'd actually read this before), I wanted to be moved.  I swear I did.  I even looked up from my book, studied my surroundings, then read the sentence again.  But, nothing.  I found myself thinking, who cares?  I mean, bummer, but what was the point of the story?  Hanging hurts?  Hanging kills?  It doesn't pay to be a Confederate? 

This story did offer us a heroic man from a side of the civil war that is not usually celebrated.  One thing Bierce did provide was a character that we could disagree with, but still admire.  I'm as against slavery as the next person, but I still think courage is admirable.  And, to be blunt, courage is courage, whether practiced by a police officer or a slave owner. 

But, as far as the story's message goes, Bierce left me hanging.


Aja Hannah said:

Yes, the courage was admirable. Yes, the author did a great job describing the scnene, the pain, the man. Yes, there is even a twist ending.

But really. The greatness of this story also washed over my head. I was bored, tired of listening to his pain, his struggle, the author's (over) description of everything and anything.

So when I got to the end, I was just glad it was over and from the time of his hanging I knew he was hung and dead. Hell, I even had supicious at the beginning of the prose he was not going to live.

Jessie Krehlik said:

I didn't feel anything after reading this story either. Although it did come to me as a bit of a shock that he actually died at the end of the story, I kind of saw it coming, but chose to ignore my instincts. Sure this story gives us a glimpse of the other-side's courage, but other than that, it was just a very drawn-out description of a dying man's final moments on earth. That, actually, is what I enjoyed most about this piece. It kind of gave me an idea of what it must be like to die-because obviously, I'm not there yet. And, I think that the writing style of this piece was a big plus, but like both of you said, I didn't really feel sorry for the confederate at the end of the day either.

Oh how I love your sarcasm. I just wanted to mention that first. (And I wasn't being sarcastic when I said that, lol. Even though it might be read that way).

I thought I would be bored with this story, and at first I think I was, but after a second reading I noticed the skill needed for Bierce to write it. He masters the use of different points of view in a way that made me actually empathize for Farquhar. Sometimes the descriptions did get a bit lengthy and boring, but some of them were quite beautiful and symbolic, such as the paragraph about him walking through the "black bodies of tress [that] formed a straight wall on both sides, terminating on the horizon in a point, like a diagram in a lesson in perspective."

I can understand why you feel this way about it, though. I guess it all depends on a person's taste... and perhaps what mood she is in when she's reading, because I think I was feeling rather ramble-y and empathetic.

PS: You win the award for best blog title ever.

Josie Rush said:

After reading a few blogs and comments where the details were celebrated, I gave the story another read though (Cody had a lot of good things to say about this piece in his blog, and Jessie and Karyssa, both of your comments and blogs pursuaded me as well). I definitely see where the detail is helpful in slowing down a process that may naturally take 45 seconds. You're right, Jessie, it gives us an idea of what dying could b like, and aren't we all morbidly curious?
At the end of the day, I think you're right, Karyssa, it's a matter of taste.
Aja and Jessie- I also kind of figured out what was going on (when Farquhar was thinking "I'll break free of my bonds, dive to the bottom of the river, and dodge volleys of bullets" I had my doubts). I actually think this is a case where that took away from the story.

Josie: In addition to Bierce wanting to slow down the process of dying for the purpose of having a longer story, maybe he did it because that's how it feels when you know you're going to die. It's the anticipation of what's to come that seems to slow down time, making it feel like a million things are happening before you reach the endpoint. This may not be the best example, but since I haven't died yet, it's the best I have. Whenever I go somewhere, and I'm really excited about the trip, it seems to take at least twice as long to get there as it does to get home after the trip is over and the anticipation is gone. Bierce reflected that feeling of waiting for something to happen in this story.

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