The Parenticide Club by Ambrose Bierce

Someone should really slap me across the face for taking such a long hiatus from Ambrose Bierce. His writing always proves entertaining. I first came across him in college when we were assigned to read a handful of his short stories for a literature class on the Civil War. Of course, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge was included (perhaps, his most famous story; don’t read the Wikipedia page if you don’t want spoilers).  I branched out and read The Devil’s Dictionary and Fantastic Fables, the former, being re-published with illustrations by Ralph Steadman.

The Parenticide Club is a short work that is composed of four stories, each with a narrator that kills at least one parent. The book grips you right from the beginning,

Having murdered my mother under circumstances of singular atrocity, I was arrested and put upon my trial, which lasted seven years. In charging the jury, the judge of the Court of Acquittal remarked that it was one of the most ghastly crimes that he had ever been called upon to explain away.

Bierce is always a great study when you want to see how a master has crafted plot and suspense. Much of his work, including The Parenticide Club, is bizarre and haunting. This short collection is a fascinating example for a writer who is interested in writing a first person narrator who is far from being a saint. These stories are not gory but can be labelled disturbing in the psychological sense.

I always find Bierce to be an interesting character. Besides being a top notch writer/journalist and wit, his life was supremely intriguing: he was a Union soldier during the Civil War (much of his more famous writings take place during the war period) and when he was in old age, he went down to Mexico to hang out with Pancho Villa  during the Revolution. No one heard from him again.

In 1962, a short film from France was adapted from the story, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. It was then shown on the Twilight Zone. Below is the Twilight Zone episode with accompanying Spanish subtitles for your convenience.

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12 comments

    1. A lot of his work is available on project Gutenberg…the parenticide club can be read in one sitting. I also strongly recommend the devil’s dictionary. Bierce is really in top form there.

  1. “… a narrator that kills at least one parent.” I’ve always had a premonition that my demise would be manifested via murder. This confirms it.

  2. I read a few short stories by Bierce as an undergrad, but it’s been years. I remember liking what I read and I’ve never heard of The Parenticide Club. After reading the brief excerpt you quoted, I’m ready to add it to my list! Thanks! 🙂

  3. An amazing and beautiful book, it made me laugh so hard first time I read it… XD . My favorite one by him, together with “The Monk And Hangman’s Daughter”, another great story (I know it was not his entire idea, and it was a changed trasnlation from a german text, but I still love that book) 😀

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