Farquhar’s Alternate Realities as a Means of Escape

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An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce is the story of Peyton Farquhar, a thirty-five year old successful Southern planter, who longs for the glory of a soldier’s service to prove the courage that he possesses. His story is told through three sections. In section I, Farquhar is standing upon the edge of Owl Creek Bridge waiting to be hanged. Farquhar closes his eyes to think about his wife and children, but he is distracted by a metallic sound which turns out to be the ticking of his watch. After opening his eyes and looking down at the water, Farquhar thinks about freeing his hands to swim to the bank and make his escape. In section II, Farquhar flashes back to the events that led to his punishment. One day, a Northern scout disguised as a Confederate soldier visits the plantation. The scout brings news that the Yankees have advanced and are repairing the railroads and have built a fort near Owl Creek Bridge. The scout also relays that the Yankee commander has issued an order to hang any civilian caught interfering with the railroad. Farquhar asks how a civilian would go about helping the Confederates succeed, and the scout tells him how easy it would be to burn the bridge. In section III, Farquhar’s mind returns to the present when he loses consciousness as he falls off the bridge. A sharp pain in his neck and the sense of suffocation awakens him. The soldiers fire at him as he swims, but Farquhar escapes into the woods and makes it back home to his wife. He is about to embrace her when he feels a blow on the back of his neck. Farquhar is dead, his body swings on the side of Owl Creek Bridge. In order to escape the actuality of the current state of his life, Farquhar deceives himself into believing that it is possib... ... middle of paper ... ...l. 2. Detroit: Gale, 1997. 171-72. Print. Korb, Rena. “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Criticism.” Short Stories for Students. Ed. Kathleen Wilson. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 1997. 166-70. Print. “An Occurrence at Owl Creek.” Short Stories for Students. Ed. Kathleen Wilson. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 1997. 160-66. Print. Quinn, Arthur Hobson. “The Journalists.” 1936. American Fiction. New York: Appleton, 1964. 521-49. Print. “Short Story.” American History through Literature 1870-1920. Ed. Tom Quirk and Gary Scharnhorst. Vol. 3. Detroit: Gale, 2006. 1139-46. Print. Stoicheff, Peter. “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Criticism.” Short Stories for Students. Ed. Kathleen Wilson. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 1997. 170-71. Print. “Tales of Soldiers and Civilians.” American History through Literature 1870-1920. Ed. Tom Quirk and Gary Scharnhorst. Vol. 3. Detroit: Gale, 2006. 1101-04. Print.

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