What Just Happened?

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What Just Happened?

Literature is black text on white paper, however it is not simply black and white, but rather complexly colorful. It serves as a medium for escape and adventure. Readers have the privilege of omniscience into the lives of characters who are the antithesis of themselves, as well as character's whom the reader feels a deep connection with.

Because it is not black and white, there is no single correct interpretation of a given work. A piece of literature lives a different life in the mind of each reader. This open individual interpretation is the critical method known as reader response. Reaction to the short story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, by Ambrose Bierce, is varied. Bierce takes on the role of God in the creation of the character, and his control of the ultimate outcome. Authors create an alternative universe. They have control over what happens in that universe, and how it will affect its inhabitants. They can manipulate it as they please. They can also destroy, as Bierce did to Peyton Farquhar. No matter how much the reader wanted Peyton to escape, it is Beirce's final ruling of death that we must deal with. The surprise ending thrills some, while upsetting others. In this sense, the author has some control over the readers reaction, and their consciousness. The reading resembles the experience of life itself, in that there are many twists and turn within our lives much like those in the story, that we have no control over, and often the outcomes are ultimately upsetting.

It is a deeply psychological work, revealing the mental struggles of the main character, Peyton Farquhar, as well as having an affect on the psychology of the reader. The reader becomes engulfed in Peyton's escape, experiencing each obstacle and hardship with him, wishing him to safety.

Bierce uses a very dreamlike structure to reveal Farquhar's psychologically suppressed ambitions:

"Obviously, he was from a structure background, born into an ordered world where formalities counted much among the gentry... Truly, Farquhar found himself inhibited by social and historical strictures, and so ‘longed for the release of his energies'" (Powers p.279) .

This inner struggle is a very Freudian concept. Freud held that there is a constant tension between man and his surroundings.

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