Are Stephen Crane and Ambrose Bierce the Inventors of the American "Anti-War" Story?

Giorgio Mariani


Drawing on premises more extensively developed elsewhere concerning the impossibility for war narratives to live up in a consistent way to their desire of delivering an anti-war lesson, the essay debates the extent to which Stephen Crane and Ambrose Bierce may be considered as the founders of a new, typically modern literary form—the anti-war story. After illustrating why such claim may be considered both valid and invalid, the essay turns to what would seem to be Bierce’s most uncompromisingly shocking and critical war story he ever wrote, “Chickamauga.” By intelligently playing off the deaf-mute child’s perspective against the narrator’s viewpoint, Bierce succeeds in de-sublimating war, puncturing the chivalric ideal with a tableau of grotesque violence. However, one must still wonder whether the shock generated by the gruesome spectacle of war may be considered as a critical appraisal of violence, or simply an emotional response that has not much to offer in terms of understanding the historical circumstances that generate violence in the first place.


Stephen Crane; Ambrose Bierce; Anti-war novel

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