What Just Happened?

What Just Happened?

Length: 1588 words (4.5 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
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.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"What Just Happened?." 123HelpMe.com. 05 Dec 2019
    <https://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=45625>.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Description Of Activity ( What Happened ) Essays

- a. Description of activity (what happened) The field instructor received a phone call from a family case manager requesting for her to go to a client’s home immediately as the client’s mother had called the family case manager reporting that the client’s boyfriend has physically abused her. Upon arriving at a client’s home with my field instructor the client opened the door and immediately we observed that the client had a black eye and her lip appeared to be swollen. When the field instructor asked her what had happened she softly stated that she had been in a car accident, but everything was fine....   [tags: Physical abuse, Abuse, Child abuse]

Research Papers
705 words (2 pages)

The Creation Of Man And World Happened Essay

- If we are wondering upon the creation of humanity, it 's likely we won 't find one right answer. Depending on who is asked, many different stories are told about how the creation of man and world happened. In The Bible, we are given a creation story from the point of view of an Abrahamic Religion. Genesis 1 demonstrates how the main character, God, spends seven days of his own time carefully sculpting the world that we now live in (Gen 1). The story tells us everything from how light was created to how a mortal was born....   [tags: Earth, Universe, Creation myth, Human]

Research Papers
724 words (2.1 pages)

What Really Happened to the Dinosaurs Essay

- There are many arguments over what happened to the dinosaurs. Scientist have one theory and religions have others. Scientist mainly believe that what killed the dinosaurs was a massive meteor. Religions, however, have theories that say everything from bloodshed and disease to Noah’s ark and a massive flood. In my opinion, the scientific theories seem more realistic and believable. This paper is going to discuss the theories and evidence that science provides and also the theories and evidence that religion provides....   [tags: natural disasters, history of our planet]

Research Papers
1422 words (4.1 pages)

What Really Happened to the Dinosaurs? Essay

- There's always been a dispute between science and religion. It's something that can't be helped, and they are the same in many ways. Most people don't see why they have to fight all the time over who's right and who's wrong. When it comes to things like the dinosaurs, theres going to be some kind of tussle because no one really knows what happened to them. The religious view points toward Adams sin being the reason the dinosaurs were wiped out. The scientific point of view is that there was a cataclysmic asteroid impact that made them go extinct....   [tags: history of the earth and its inhabitants]

Research Papers
709 words (2 pages)

What Really Happened to the Dinosaurs? Essay

- There has been a debate about what happened to the dinosaurs since they were discovered. There are many thoughts of what happened to the dinosaurs, the two main theories behind the extinction are scientific and religious. Proof for both theories do exist and debates between scientists are still going on to which one really happened. It is a mystery as much for Evolutionists as it is for Creationists about the extinction of the dinosaurs. The fossil record of dinosaurs was poorly know for a long period of time....   [tags: Scientific Evidence, Religious Conviction]

Research Papers
1031 words (2.9 pages)

Essay about What Really Happened To The Dinosaurs?

- In Theory, there a infinitely many possibilities of what really happened to the dinosaurs. Every scientist, and every religious group say they have an idea of what really happened. But how can we tell whether they are wrong or right. We can’t. We can only make a guess, or believe what we want to believe. Religious people have their beliefs and the scientist have their beliefs too. We, ourselves have to decide on which ones we want to believe. Scientists have had many theories for what happened to the dinosaurs....   [tags: history of the earth and its inhabitants]

Research Papers
755 words (2.2 pages)

Essay on The Signalman and How It Happened

- Both Charles Dickens (1866), the author of “The Signalman”, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1918) of “How It Happened” explore the theme of the supernatural to create suspense. The central theme of the supernatural is commonly associated with feelings of fear and horror; these feelings are appropriate for creating suspense, thus effectively driving the reader into a panicked state of mind. Not only is the theme of the supernatural used to create suspense, but the authors also use it to explore issues concerning life and death....   [tags: Dickens, Doyle, Suspense, Short Stories]

Research Papers
1230 words (3.5 pages)

The Signalman and How It Happened Essay

- Both Charles Dickens (1866), the author of “The Signalman”, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1918) of “How It Happened” explore the theme of the supernatural to create suspense. The central theme of the supernatural is commonly associated with feelings of fear and horror; these feelings are appropriate for creating suspense, thus effectively driving the reader into a panicked state of mind. Not only is the theme of the supernatural used to create suspense, but the authors also use it to explore issues concerning life and death....   [tags: Dickens, Doyle, Suspense, Short Stories]

Research Papers
1080 words (3.1 pages)

Essay on Rwand How The Genocide Happened?

- Although there are many outbreaks around the world, scenes in Africa never seem to reach the news in the United States. Problems continue to take over, resulting in disease, famine and death. The Starvation of Rwanda image does not give a full insight on what is happening in Rwanda; therefore, many people may not be aware of the tragedies that have happened over twenty years ago. In the BBC’s news “Rwanda: How the genocide happened”, the Genocide itself started in April 1994. Only in a hundred days were about 800,000 people were killed....   [tags: Rwandan Genocide, Rwanda, Paul Kagame, Hutu]

Research Papers
1023 words (2.9 pages)

What Really Happened on 9/11? Essay

- ... Looks like the info spilled just a little bit... the commission had only intended to let out information regarding what they wanted the public to know. This seems to be a “one sided story”. Although there seems to be an overwhelming amount of information pointing to a conspiracy regarding the 9/11 attacks, many people claim that there were no government connections with what had happened and it was all a plan of terrorism. The official report, formally named “Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States” claims that what happened was a simple terrorist plot with the head leader being Osama Bin-Laden....   [tags: terrorist attacks on US soil]

Research Papers
1705 words (4.9 pages)

Related Searches

In particular, a conflict between his needs and desires, and the demands of society. He also stated that the conscious is only a very small part of the human mind, there is are deeper waters than the thoughts we have access to, he called the thoughts below the surface our subconscious, and according to Freud the map to our subconscious lies in our dreams. Freud determined that all dreams are wish fulfillments(Gaarder p.431-435). Peyton's dreamed escape reveals his wish to escape, not only from death, but from the demands, and censorship of his society.

The structure also serves to give a feeling of a distorted, yet believable reality and time much like that of a dream. The theme of comparing life, or death in this example, is one used throughout the history of literature. The Spanish dramatist Calderon de la Barca, wrote a play called, Life is a Dream, in which he says: "What is life? A madness. What is life? An illusion, a shadow, (this is strikingly similar to Shakespeare's words in Macbeth,: ‘Life is but a walking shadow...') a story, and the greatest good is little enough, for all life is a dream." This theme is also present in a play called Jeppe on the Mount by Ludwig Holdberg. The story goes that Jeppe falls asleep in a ditch, and wakes up in the Baron's bed. He therefore thinks that he only dreamed that he was a poor farmhand. Then he falls asleep again and is carried back to the ditch. He then thinks he only dreamed he was lying in the Baron's bed. This theme is found even further back in history, when the old Chinese sage Chang-tzu said: "Once I dreamed I was a butterfly, and now I no longer know whether I am Chang-tzu, who dreamed I was a butterfly, or whether I am a butterfly dreaming that I am Chang-tzu."(Gaarder p.229) I have often had dreams that I was unsure were that and only that. It is often a very difficult task to sort out reality from dreams.

Of course one of the obvious themes of the story is that of death. Peyton's dream of escpe is just a denial and prolonging of certain death. Peyton experiences several distortions in his fabricated world of reality. Peytons's mind races so fast that even the ticking of his watch becomes "a sharp, distinct, metallic percussion like the stroke of a blacksmith's hammer upon the anvil." It clangs slower and slower until the delays become "maddening." His watch certainly did not slow; his mind became so agitated and nervous that the ticking seemed elongated. With the time in his world being so distorted, it is no wonder that in the time it took for his body to fall several feet, his mind escaped and fled home. Also towards the end of the story, everyday things start to seem, as if they have significance, hidden meanings to Peyton. Above him, strange constellations of stars, he is sure, "are arranged in some order which had a secret and malign significance." To each side of him, in the forest, "he distinctly heard whispers in an unknown tongue." Aside from the hidden meanings, his surroundings are very simple in structure. He comes to a road that he " knew to be in the right direction." However, it is unlike any other road, because "it is as wide and straight as a city street,... terminating on the horizon at a point... , yet it seemed untraveled." The surroundings also seem to have elements of comfort. The grass has carpeted the road so that it is very soft, so soft that "he could no longer feel the roadway beneath his feet!" All these things are noted within the last four paragraphs of the story, just before the end of his life. It seems that death was somehow trying to make itself understood to Peyton.

The work is also philosophical in its manipulation of reality. It forces the reader to question what reality is, something that has driven and alluded the minds of great thinkers for eternity. Peyton is far from a realist. He is very much an empiricist. An empiricist derives his knowledge of the world around him by what his senses tell him. Peyton feels as if he is escaping. He creates a fantastical world for himself which is all a result of denial. The entire story is a collection of sensory imagery:

"...the light about him shot upward with the noise of a loud splash; a frightful roaring was in his ears, and all was cold and dark.......;his neck ached horribly; his brain was on fire; his heart, which had been fluttering faintly, gave a great leap, trying to force itself out of his mouth. His whole body was racked and wrenched with an insupportable anguish!"(Bierce/The Norton Introduction to Literature pg.83-84).
This type of imagery forces the reader to become, at least for duration of the reading, an empiricist. The reader also believes that Peyton is escaping because of what he perceives with his senses. However the reader learns that one cannot trust ones senses all the time.

The story also becomes political with its use of satire, caricatures, and archetypes. This is evident in his depiction of the rigidity of the south. "The company faced the bridge, staring stonily, motionless...[they] might have been statues to adorn the bridge. The captain stood with arms folded, silent, observing the work of his subordinates but making no sign"(p. 81). Farquhar himself becomes an archetype for revolutionary freedom seekers. He embraces the all familiar theme in history to escape oppression. He had an agenda of has own, but it would be unfulfilled, destroyed by the power of those of an opposing political view. Peyton is 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."(Bierce/The Norton Introduction to Literature pg.82).

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge is a brilliantly written story. It has so many different and interesting elements to it. He employs, psychology, philosophy, and politics all in one short story. One must reread it several times to catch all of its points. The first time I read it was as a junior, it left me asking "What just Happened?" At first I was upset, thinking, "Mr. Beirce, that's not fair, you shouldn't jerk me around like that!" But then I realized how amazing it was that he had that much control over my emotions. When he wrote the story, he knew how it would affect people. And it still works, over a hundred years later, as he lies in his grave. Now that is a powerful legacy.

Works Cited

Powers, James G., S.J. "Freud and Farquhar: An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge?". Studies in Short Fiction. 19(3) (1982): 278-281.

Bierce, Ambrose. "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"(1891). The Norton Introduction to Literature. (1998). 80-87.

Stoicheff, Peter. "‘Something Uncanny': The Dream Structure in Ambrose Bierce's ‘An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge'". Studies in Short Fiction. 30(3) (1993): 349-358.

Gaarder, Jostein. "Sophie's World, a Novel About the History of Philosophy". The Berkley Publishing Group. New York, NY. (1996) 229/431-435.
Return to 123HelpMe.com