Theme Of Death In An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge

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For much of recorded history, humans have fixated on the concept of mortality and of making proper use of their brief time spent on earth. These notions are evident across centuries of literature, the urgency of “carpe diem,” or of seizing the day, originating from Horace even before the time of anno Domini. Despite the overwhelming pervasiveness of these themes in every epoch, the sense of exigency surrounding them is only compounded with the added complication of war and the veritable maelstrom of death that accompanies its trials. Because of the military past of the United States, the use of these ideals in literature persists with American authors as well. Specifically, in the writings of the post-Civil War era, the use of death and wasted…show more content…
The story opens with the impending hanging of Peyton Farquhar, a “well-to-do planter, of an old and highly-respected Alabama family” (Bierce 400). First published in 1890, Bierce’s introduces Peyton as a proud Southern slaveholder who, naturally, supported the effort for secession. Unlike most narratives published after Reconstruction, however, Bierce neither glorifies nor condemns Peyton’s politics. Instead, Bierce focuses on the war’s impact on a personal level; through this approach, Bierce provides insight into the period by temporarily exculpating the losing side and giving a human voice to one of America’s darker periods. This perspective allows the reader to connect with an unlikely protagonist and root for his survival, even in the modern day, when audiences generally vilify the South due to an innate distaste for slavery. Additionally, Bierce forces his readers to abandon any preconceived notions they may possess regarding the Confederacy for the sake of immersion in the story and, in doing so, causes them to question whether their opinions are the result of biased accounts from the winning side. By using this rhetorical device, he effectively forces the modern reader to…show more content…
His delvings into the workings of the human mind, especially in terms of how it responds to the utter chaos and ruination brought about by combat, supply his audience with a unique glance into the cynicism felt by the post-War generation. With his musings on mortality, futility, devastation, and the scarcity of time, Bierce represents the sentiments of a nation that was torn apart by fighting and temporarily lost its ability to function as a whole. Furthermore, with his stories “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” and “Chickamauga,” Bierce grants the opportunity for his readers to ponder their own behaviors, opinions, and lifestyles. As a result, he proves himself to be an incredible example of the means by which literature can affect people, an ability that endures even after one’s original audience has passed and a new generation has

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