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An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge and The Snows of Kilimanjaro.
Death is an intriguing thing. From time immemorial we have feared it, used it, pondered it. Frequently, stories allow the reader into the minds of those immediatly surrounding the one who will die; but all of us "will die." Our morbid interest is in dying, the going, that threshold between death and life. What happens there? There are similiarities and differences in how death appears to the protagonist, written by Ambrose Bierce in An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge, and Ernest Hemingway in The Snows of Kilimanjaro. Bierce offers An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge to show the incredible fantasy that passes through the mind of a man as he dies. Hemingway's engrossing description lies in The Snows of Kilimanjaro. Here, on the African savannah, a man encounters death slowly and with excruciating lucidness. While the differences between the two stories are easy to enumerate, it is the simliarities that may offer the most insight into the minds of the authors and, perhaps, into the minds of us all. The setting for An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge is northern Alabama during the Civil War. Peyton Farquhar (Peyton) is said to be a planter who is left behind by the Confederate Army due to circumstances "...of an imperious nature," but he longs for the "release of his energies, the larger life of the soldier, the opportunity for distinction." Immaturity seems the watchword for him; the eagerness with which he swallows the bait presented by a Union spy may give a glimpse of the lack of gravity in Peyton's character that leads to his capture and to the fantastic attempt at escape or denial that his mind fabricates just before his death. Peyton is not a realist. Harry is a realist. The protagonist in The Snows of Kilimanjaro faces his pending doom with distinct clarity and resignation. In fact, his insistance greatly distrubs his wife (naturally) who tries to cheer him up by telling him that help is only a day away, and all that is needed to make it is a positive attitude. Harry is positive. He is certain that he will die very soon. He knows the mistake that has sealed his fate. Although he would change the past if he could, he does not seem to lament his end except for the writing he will never do.
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Hemingway. The Hemingway Reader. New York; Charles Scribner's Sons, 1953, pp. 589-608.
McMichael. Anthology of American Literature, edition V. New York; Macmillan Publishing Company, 1993, pp. 536 - 543.