The Coup De Grace by Ambrose Bierce
What are the two main themes of the story?
The main themes of this short story are brutality of nature and the feeling of horror. Ambrose Bierce has used these two themes to bring out the desired effect of horror, conflict, and sympathy in the ending. The setting of the story is introduced as a place of horror. His choice of words confirms the theme of horror. He says that there was fighting and that the taste of battle was still in the air (Bierce, 1862). Such an introduction makes one fear of the horror that might be lurking. The illustrations of the bodies in heaps being arranged in dozens and scores as well does gives a sense of horror. There is also the moaning from the dying men and horses that cannot be attended to due to strict policies and luck of health personnel. The trees are also splintered showing that cannons also destroyed them. The way the author describes the setting shows of a place that has been destroyed and where people have lost all hope of existence or even surviving the war. He even dehumanizes the people by calling them wrecks and personifying trees by describing them as splintered when that word is used to describe broken bones and not trees (Bierce, 1862). The setting skies are described as red, showing the brutality of nature. The animal that is feeding on human remains on the horizon continues to affirm the latter. In the end of the story, it becomes very dramatic and conflicting as well. Both themes are exemplified when the Captain is forced to shot the horse that takes time to die and shoot his friend who experiences even worse pain than the horse (Bierce, 1862).
Is the story a good example of naturalistic writing?
Naturalism is a form of writing that is used by writers to show the sad but realistic events that are taking place at the present. They use this art to comment and help the world to understand on the horrors and realities of life. Naturalists believe that the environment they exist in, heredity and pure chance or luck determines everyone’s fate. This particular story is a good example of naturalistic writing. Ambrose chooses his environment and takes his time describing it in the crudest and cruel way to fit his form of writing. The heaps of dying bodies of people and horses suffering and morning build the topic of assisted suicide (Bierce, 1862). He uses this environment to show that the captain was justified to make this decision. The way the captain first shoots the horse before killing the, man shows that it is not only an act of carriage but also necessary humanity. This is further emphasized when the captain shoots the horse while looking aside (Bierce, 1862). The surroundings are perfect to support his main point. He also shows that the characters heredity designed his fate. The Sergeant who is the captain’s friend dies due to love and not hatred. The captain and the sergeant are not brothers but could be considered as such since they grew up together and have held on to their friendship despite the hardships presented at the war. Had they not been friends, the sergeant would not have pitied him and put him out of his misery and would have survived since the blood brother was just about to arrive with assistance. The sergeant’s choice to join the army despite him not having the calling also led to his demise unlike the captain who always wanted to be in the army (Bierce, 1862).
What is the summary of the story?
The story the Coup De Grace is a packed story full of irony, satire, conflict, and horror. Ambrose manages to highlight all this themes in a short story which at the end is very good work. The story has three main characters are Captain Downing Madwell, Sergeant Halcrow-Caffal, and Creede Halcrow. The latter are brothers and the captain is a close friend of the Sergeant. The Captain and Creede are archenemies and the author makes it worse when at the end, the Captain swords his friend just before his brother arrives with help in hope to save his life. The story focuses on the inhumanity that people have and direct to each other knowingly and the horror that friends go through as a duty. It is contrast as well as satire. The inhumanity and the eerie mood that hangs around the place is depressing as well as demoralizing. At the end, it even has a moral story which is we should only involve ourselves in activities that have been our passion and that would benefit us individually.
Bierce, A., 1862. The Coup De Grace