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Throughout the story, we are able to see of different of a world Ambrose Bierce lived in compared to the one that we know. This is the first part of the story that noticed, because in today’s world, no man would ever be hung, let alone executed for tampering with a bridge.
Peyton Farquhar grew up as a rich southerner. He had everything that a man could want at that point in time: a wife, children, land and slaves. However, he had always felt something was missing. Due to the fact he was unable to fight in the army, he did not feel like he was really a man. This is why he was willing to anything as “no service was too humble to him to perform in aid of the south, no adventure too perilous for him to undertake if consistent with the character of a civilian who was a soldier at heart”. Farquhar was blinded by his enthusiasm at it ultimately resulted in his demise. His actions to tamper with the bridge did not completely end in failure. The illusion of escape and heroism that he went through prior to his death, was the most alive he has ever felt.
Looking back at Farquhar imagined journey back to his house, you begin to realized the pains and emotions that we was experiencing were more of a man hanging, than of one that just escaped from one. The first example is when Farquhar enters the forest and is surprised to see how dense the forest was, as “he had not known that he lived in so wild a region” and the stars were in an unfamiliar pattern that night as well. He also refers to the pain he experiences in his neck and his were feeling “congested” and he could not close them. This is because there is great force being applied to his neck and head from the noose. Farquhar was also because to experience thirst so great that his tongue was beginning to swell, but his tongue was really swelling from the pressure applied by the rope. He began to walk on the untraveled avenue, which symbolizes the avenue of death, and could no longer feel the ground beneath his feet. It felt as if he were walking on air, which proved to be an indication of hanging.
Peyton also notices a very loud, striking sound as he tries to concentrate on his wife and children.
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Another inconsistency that could allow the reader to realize his escape was merely a hallucination was the speed of the water. While on top of the bridge, Farquhar notices how slow the water is moving by the speed of the driftwood. But when he is in the water, he is surprised that the current had taken him so far downstream from the bridge and danger.
Bierce also gives the reader some historical perspective with the way he describes the military. He gives reference to the exact positioning of the men and the careful attention to terminology in the description of their postures. The language that the military uses also emphasizes this fact. This all fits in with the theme of the historical and geographical perspective that is Bierce is trying to accomplish.
When someone reads “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”, they will discover the way one man comes to grips with his inevitable demise. Some people try to embrace death and some will fight to the end, but Peyton Farquhar did neither. Instead he tried to envision himself as something that he is not, a warrior. For Farquhar’s entire life, he wanted to be a soldier, a hero. He has always envisioned that he could be a hero, so why not spend his last few moments fantasizing about it again. My personal perception of Peyton Farquhar is that he was a coward and never really had to work for anything in his life.