Can Such Things Be?

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24 stories by Ambrose Bierce, published in 1893. Mainly concerned with episodes of the Civil War and the California frontier, they are marked by a psychological realism, sardonic humor, and clever use of surprise endings and effects of supernatural horror, exhibited in such titles as “The Realm of the Unreal,” “Some Haunted Houses,” “Bodies of the Dead,” and “Mysterious Disappearances.”

“My Favorite Murder” is a perversely humorous narrative which concludes: “Altogether, I cannot help thinking that in point of atrocity my murder of Uncle William has seldom been excelled.” “The Famous Gilson Bequest,” anticipating Clemens's “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg,” tells of a hanged California horse-thief who leaves his wealth to the man who convicted him, maliciously stipulating that anyone who can prove that Gilson robbed him shall receive the property instead. This results in years of litigation, the wrecking of moral conscience in the community, and the premature aging and death of his victim. “One Kind of Officer,” a Civil War story, tells of Captain Ransome's fire on his own troops, owing to the mistaken orders of a general who is killed in battle, leaving Ransome to be punished for his superior's error.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Ambrose Bierce (1842—1914) American writer