Themes In Short Story

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The theme of characters “searching for something” is a common aspect in many short stories, and typically is the major driving force behind the plot. This very theme is evident in Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin, Paul’s Case by Willa Cather, and finally An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce. The protagonists in these stories: Sonny, Paul, and Peyton Farquhar are all on the hunt for an escape from a certain aspect of their lives. For Sonny it is a desire to defy the stereotypes of the typical Harlem hoodlum, Paul’s search entails him shedding all of his ties to the narrow minded middle class around him by fully emerging himself in the art world, and Farquhar 's is to ditch his boring life for something more adventurous. These searches…show more content…
This Harlem is the Harlem that Sonny knew. This Harlem disintegrated the moral fiber of the youth that lived there, as proven in a study conducted in Harlem over the course of fifteen years. The study concluded that, “residence in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods may influence psychological functioning and drug use through a number of mechanisms: an increase in a physiologic stress response, more opportunities to obtain drugs, and peer drug use” (Brook, et al. 357). Therefore, it is possible to ascertain, that just by growing up in such a location, an individual is predisposed to use narcotics, and must fight feverishly in attempt to avoid it. This is precisely what Sonny is doing, and why he is in search of any possible way out of the ghetto. This is evidenced in the dialogue between Sonny and the narrator, when the narrator asks Sonny, “what the hell do you want to go and join the army for?” and Sonny replies, “To get out of Harlem” (Baldwin 33). This desperation to join the army, which likely appeals to him to be less fatal than remaining in…show more content…
Bored of the plantation lifestyle, he is desperately looking for a way to show his devotion the Southern secession cause. After being “prevented from taking service in the ...army”, Farquhar takes matters into his own hands and takes a more rebellious angle towards gaining purpose and excitement in his life (Bierce 53). Farquhar fails at this, and even in the last few minutes of his life where he is dangling over the bridge, are spent fantasizing about the “magnificent,... [and] superhuman strength” he wishes he could exhibit in his imaginary escape away from his captors, much like how he was searching for a liberation to his boring reality (Bierce 55). Bierce effectively communicates Farquhar’s gap between reality and illusion through foreshadowing and by not making it clear that his escape, though overblown and difficult to believe to begin with, was an illusion all
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