Short Story #193: A Psychological Shipwreck by Ambrose Bierce

Title: A Psychological Shipwreck

Author: Ambrose Bierce

Summary

Book cover: Complete Short Stories of Ambrose BierceWilliam Jarrett boards the Morrow, a sailing ship for New York with few other companions besides a woman, Jannette Harford.  They become friendly and connect in a deep way that the first-person narrator assures the reader is not love.  However, when William speaks of this feeling to Jannette, she takes up a strange look towards him and continues to look at him before closing her eyes.  She appears to have fallen asleep.  William looks at the book she is reading on her lap and where her index finger fell.  It fell on a passage from Denneker's Meditations about souls meeting and knowing one another from beyond the body.  Very quickly a storm sets in and creates certain havoc.  The ship begins to sink and after Jannette is ripped away from William, he passes out.  He awakes on the City of Prague, a steamship that left a tthe same time as the Morrow and Jarrett had been originally invited to go aboard with his friend.  His friend, Gordon Doyle stares at him now trying to deduce what is going on.  As William slowly learns, he has been on the City of Prague since it sailed and that he had been sick the past few days.  He also learns that Jannette is Gordon's fiance who was sent on the Morrow so that Doyle could settle things in New York before her arrival.  William also notices the book that Doyle is reading which is Denneker's Meditations with a special passage marked, apparently a second copy that Jannette had given him.  When Gordon and Jarrett arrive in New York, they look for Jannette's arrive, but it never appears.  

Reflection

Of course, "psychological shipwreck" could have taken on lots of meanings and in hindsight, we see it is one that has never occurred bu has all the implications that it did.  Of course, once we learn that William had dreamed about what happened on the Morrow, we also know that the shipwreck was real.  

Short Story #193 out of 365
Rating:  2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 7/12/2014
Source:  The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce, compiled by Ernest Jerome Hopkins.  Bison Books, 1984.  The full works of Ambrose Bierce, including this story can be found here on Archive.org.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



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