An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge Essay

An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge Essay

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Life and Death in “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”
Originally published in 1890 by author and Civil War Veteran Ambrose Bierce, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” is a short story that explores a civilian’s final moments before death during the Civil War. Centering on a man, this story opens on a profoundly ambiguous scene: preparations are being made for the hanging of a civilian man by Union troops on the Owl Creek bridge. The military men finish their preparations and step off of the plank, allowing the man to be hanged. The man, Peyton Farquhar, is a wealthy southern plantation and slave owner who strongly supports the southern cause. One day a Confederate soldier arrives at his house and informs Farquhar that the Union troops are preparing to advance via the Owl Creek bridge and if one were inclined to prevent this, it is possible to burn the bridge down. However, anyone caught doing so will be hanged immediately. It is revealed that the soldier is a Union scout. Returning to the present, Farquhar falls through the bridge but, miraculously, the rope breaks and he plunges into the river below, still alive. Farquhar makes his escape despite the Union gunfire and makes it back home to his wife and children. However, as he goes to embrace his wife, he feels a sharp pain in the back of his neck and sees a bright white light, and then nothing; Peyton Farquhar’s dead body is swinging beneath the Owl Creek bridge. In his short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” Ambrose Bierce blurs the line between life and death through both the distortion of time and Peyton Farquhar’s perception of reality.
Ambrose Bierce manages to blur the line between life and death in “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” through the distortion of ti...


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...etween life and death as Farquhar’s perception of reality while dying appears more real than the reality that he actually lives. As Joseph Zarro observed in The English Journal “Farquhar realizes the value of life, but only when vis-à-vis with death,” (Zarro 655).
Through the distortion of time throughout the narrative as well as Peyton Farquhar’s perception of reality, Ambrose Bierce skillfully manages to blur the line between life and death in his famous short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” As a talented American writer and Civil War veteran himself, Bierce was able to introduce his own view of warfare into this short story, which add to the already present themes of reality, time, and death. These themes work in unison to provide the reader with an intellectually satisfying and thought provoking short story that was expertly crafted by Ambrose Bierce.

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