Interpretive Reading

From the very onset of the second passage, Bierce vividly imparts in the mind of the reader a dreadful notion by elaborating the nature in which Carter Druce is raised; the only son born to a wealthy family and natured amidst luxury and plenty. This well cultured gentleman has now resolved to join in the war and trying to visualize the father’s thoughts. The reader can only imagine how dreadful it is for him to hear that his only son is going to be part of the regiment that just arrived (Bierce, 3). Even worse is the fact that his wife is bedridden and according to the physician, she has a few weeks to live. Carter’s father takes a moment before responding to his statements and when he does, he reminds him of his ailing mother and that whatever time she has left is of immense value for her last peaceful moments.

In regards to the perspective of the father, what rushes through the mind of the old man is the improbability of his son ever returning home alive. This is clearly pointed out in his own words when he shows the desire to talk to his son about it; should they both live to the end of the war (Bierce, 7). In the same sentence, the father calls Carter a traitor of his own state. That is; how could his own son choose to fight again his own people? In the worse scenario, the young man makes these horrifying resolution at a time when his mother is ill to the point of death. How worse can it get for the old man? His sin has betrayed his own state and his wife has just a few weeks of life. Not only is he to be a widower soon but has also lost the pride in his only son. Fortunately, Crater’s father shields his wife form the dreadful events that have just unfolded in the family. However, the reader cannot imagine how horrible it would be to the ailing woman should she learn that her son has joined in the war and even worse, the enemy’s side (Bierce, 14).

Carter’s resolution to join the Union army as opposed to the Confederacy is a major drawback on Virginia. This follows the fact that Virginia is his birthplace and has lived there all his life. He knows the terrain so well, and in fact his nativity earns him a quick recruitment. This weakens the tactics of the opposing army given their own is now educating the enemy about them. This is a reality and is seen when Carter’s superior asks him if during his scouting he noted anything that could be of advantage to the expedition (Bierce, 11).

Bierce, while narrating the conversation between Carter and his father introduces the dilemma waging within the young man’s mind. He notes that Carter quietly and gravely tells his father about his decision. He understands the consequences of his choices; it pains him to lose the trust of his compatriots and by extension of his father, he is well aware of the grief he is causing his father and ailing mother and being the only child, he can only imagine the immense pain and grief his old man will go through and that why he presents his resolutions with heaviness of heart. Apparently his burden for his father is rightly placed and is seen when Bierce notes that the stately bow of his father masks a breaking heart (Bierce, 07).

The most horrifying experience for Carter is felt when he is a sentinel at the edge of the cliff. Roused from his sleep and state of crime, Carter sees a man motionlessly seated on a horse at the extreme end of the cliff. A spy, according to Carter’s orders, must be shot dead at moment’s notice, without warning or spiritual preparation. As the soldier prepares to take his shot, he notices that the spy is his own father and that throws him in a state of terror. In this regards, he has to choose between patriotic duty and filial obedience. He grows pale, shakes and turns pale and in the state of intense emotion, the soldier loses the grip of his rifle. Moments later he clears his conscious and raises his head again, this time with the courageous intention of shooting the man but out moral conviction, he shoots the horse.

Evidently, Carter contends with the idea of killing his own father, how would he live with it given he has betrayed his own people? Duty also demands that he deliver as a sentinel, save his fellow soldiers, how will his comrades see him? Convicted by his conscience, Carter turns his attention from his father to the horse the takes the aim, pulls the trigger and shoots the horse. Out of familial attachments, he runs to the edge of the cliff to articulate what has really happen. To his surprise he sees no one; both the horse and the rider are gone. The event traumatizes him so much to the extent whereby Bierce notices that after reloading his rifle. Carter remains motionless despite the approaching federal sergeant (Bierce, 11). The sergeant inquire from him about the shot that he just fired. Carter hives a truthful answer but except for the fact that it is his father that he just killed. When probed further, the sergeant is shocked at the amount of courage that Carter showed in delivering on his required duty. The reader would interpret this reaction to mean that the sergeant is horrified by the fact that this man has not only betrayed his state but has also killed his father as a duty.

Drawing from the horrors in the story, the reader learns the importance of the horrors portrayed by Bierce. The civil war has torn a family. The son has chosen the wrong side of the war and ends up fighting with his father who he apparently kills in the end. Bierce does not talk about the fate of Carte’s mother who the reader assumes died. However, there is much left to desire and to ask of what becomes of Carter after killing his father. The readers are left with a lot suspense of what kind of life Carter lives after the incident. The conflicts and dilemmas waging in the minds of the characters in the story are very captivating. The reader quickly relates to what each and every person in the story is going through. Carter’s father does not live to see the end of the war neither does he return home to his succumbing wife (Bierce, 13). What runs through the mind of the reader is; what becomes of Carter’s inheritance? Does he claim them or is he haunted by guilt to the points that he fails to return home? Bierce brilliantly instills dilemma in the mind of the reader leaving one with a desire to know more about how the story truly ends.

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