Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” brings upon many questions relating to its change in perspectives and the focus on the character. The story is classified as realism based on the fact that the author, Bierce, focuses more on the character than the plot itself. Readers worry about the characters hanging, not about the war and the chicanery used by both opponents. Bierce also uses a change in perspective throughout the story to show emphasis on the character and his thoughts. The change alters the reality in the readers minds, in a way they truly believe that he will survive the hanging and escape free to his family. Sadly, that wouldn’t have given readers the opportunity to classify it as realism and it wouldn’t have given Bierce the chance to show the readers the way our brains play tricks on us.
At the start of the story Bierce uses a distant third person omniscient, allowing peers to know everybody’s action. He describes the setting, situation, where everyone is located on the bridge, who the commander is, and the conversation among the soldiers. Within the first few paragraphs the reader has basically came up with their idea of the conclusion, he gets hung. At least that is what Bierce wants them to think. Then, the commander gives the soldiers the command to move off the board. The story then continues but not how we would perceive it to. That is when he changes to third person limited.
Third person limited is the transition to the middle of the story and we understand the reasoning behind the hanging, and the name of the man being hung, Peyton Farquhar, as well as his background. Bierce used this to look at the character more than the plot. Then, ...
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... for the happy ending and want to believe that it all works out at the end, not realizing that that part of the story is false. “To establish the irony systematically, Bierce concludes each of the story’s three sections with a flat realistic statement to undercut Farquhar’s preceding fantasies or romantic illusions” (Bouchard 46).
As stated by Littell on page 580, “Bierce also went beyond realism in his experiments with narration, pioneering the use of multiple points of view in a single story.” His use of multiple perspectives in “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” gives the reader an allusion that Peyton survived the hanging. Bierce also presents the situations that cause your brain to play tricks on you; Peyton’s mind played tricks on him giving him the allusion of surviving. Bierce wants us to focus more on the character than the plot classifying it as realism.
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