Analysis Of “an Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge”

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"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge""An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," by Ambrose Bierce, is the story of the hanging of a Civil War era Southern gentleman by the name of Peyton Farquhar. The story begins with an unidentified man being prepared to be hanged by a company of Union soldiers on a railroad bridge that runs over a river. He is then identified as Peyton Farquhar, a man who attempted to destroy the very bridge they are standing on based on information he was given by a Federal scout posing as a Confederate soldier. As he is dropped from the bridge to hang, the rope snaps and he falls into the river. After freeing himself and returning to the surface of the river, he realizes that his senses are all much heightened and he even "noted the prismatic colors in all the dewdrops upon a million blades of grass" (153).

Peyton then begins to swim downstream as he is being shot at by the soldiers and a cannon as well. He soon pulls himself ashore and begins the long journey home. After walking all day and night, to the point where "his tongue was swollen with thirst" and "he could no longer feel the roadway beneath his feet" he finally makes it to his home (155). Just as he is about to embrace his wife he feels a sharp pain in his neck and hears a loud snap. He is dead from the hanging, and all this was just a dream

"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" shows the potential strength that a person's will to live can have, and that we often don't appreciate life fully until it's gone. Peyton Farquhar is a very flat and static character. This serves to make the central idea of this very powerful need for life more applicable to humans universally, rather than the story of his experience alone. One thing that can be seen about his character though, is that he never appreciated life or took notice of his surroundings as fully as he did after he almost dies. For example, after reaching the shore of the river while being shot at, he noticed how beautiful and fragrant the trees were and "he had no wish to perfect his escape - was content to remain in that enchanting spot until retaken" (155). There are two conflicts that play a very important role in this story.

The first is the obvious one, Peyton against the Union soldiers. It is because of these soldiers that he is in this position in the first place. A Union scout fed him information that would inevitably lead him to be captured by the soldiers posted at the railroad bridge and summarily hanged. The less obvious but more important conflict is that of Man against Nature. Peyton dies from the hanging, but rather than accept that at first, his brain leads him to believe that he survived the hanging and lived for some time afterward.

As he was hanged he "fell straight downward through the bridge" and "lost consciousness and was as one already dead. From this state he was awakened" (152). From this point on, the rest of the story is a dream. This stems from his will to live going against the true events, without even a conscious effort to do so."An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" is written in the third person limited omniscient point of view. The narrator is telling the story as if observing it from outside any of the characters, yet you know everything that Peyton is feeling and thinking with great detail.

This method of telling the story very effectively reinforces the idea that this inherent want and need for survival is something that can be found in nearly all humans. If the story had been told in first person by Peyton, this would not be so much an observation of human nature as it would be one man's recounting of his final experience. Works CitedBierce, Ambrose. "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." Short Fiction: Classic and Contemporary. 5th Ed. Ed Charles Bohner with Lyman Grant. Upper Saddle River, NJ.

Prentice-Hall, 2002. 150-155.

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