Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge Approach Ambrose Bierce, the author of the short story “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge” used his own life experiences to create successful and expressive writing. The time period in which Bierce lived had a significant influence on his writing. Bierce’s experiences fighting the front lines in the civil war are brought out in his writings and short stories. The historic time period, in which Bierce placed the setting of “Owl Creek Bridge”, is very significant and creates a successful historic approach.
Bierce tells "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" in the third person point of view. In turn the reader has limited knowledge and understanding of situations taking place. Bierce’s third person point of view, historical setting, and theme of death, brands “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge” as a successful short story. The third person point of view affects the story in a number of ways. One since the reader’s knowledge is limited; it is difficult to fully understand what the main character “Peyton Farquhar’s” is experiencing and the reasons behind his hanging.
Bierce is the only person who knows how Peyton Farquhar thinks feels. Two, since he does not let the reader into the minds of the characters a sense of mystery is created. By the end of the story, Bierce seems both reliable and unreliable, he reveals that Farquhar is dead, but we also know that he imagined an escape. By introducing the reader to two different scenarios, Peyton being hung, and Peyton escaping into his wife’s arms, Bierce creates confusion for the reader. This third person approach enables Bierce’s story come to life and creates an interesting perspective.
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Bierce’s use of setting and historic time period in, “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge”, enables this story to be viewed time and time again. The Civil War relates back to our American roots, it is a piece of history that every American has learned about and is the reason why America is known as the “Land of the Free”. Incorporating American History into the setting of this story allows “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge” to be passed on from one generation to the next. Peyton Farquhar, the main character, is a southern farmer who is pro- slavery and a Confederate during the 1800’s (200).
Peyton got caught in his attempt to destroy Owl Creek Bridge in order stop Union soldiers from reaching his family and farmland (200). This action is led to the reason behind his hanging. Bierce’s use of historic time period creates a successful, and relatable story for all readers. Death, the dreaded thought, Bierce plays into the human instinct to fight or cheat death. Peyton’s imagination comes into play when he does not want to accept the fact that he is going to die. Even though he is standing there, seconds away from being hung, Peyton imagines himself escaping.
The story itself centers on an alternate reality that Farquhar creates in his mind, while he's really hanging, with no heartbeat, just activity in his brain. The idea is that Farquhar creates an escape in his mind, seconds before he is actually dead. Bierce utilizes denial as an essential element in the story, by exploring the human desire to cheat death, and escape fate. Peyton Farquhar tries to do so by examining any get away in his mind, before actually doing anything. By showing that even though, he escaped in his mind, Bierce demonstrates that death is unavoidable no matter what one does to escape it.
Though death is not unexpected for Farquhar, he is ultimately unable to accept it. “As he pushes open the gate and passes up the wide walk, he sees a flutter of female garments; his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet, steps down from the veranda to meet him. At the bottom of the steps she stands waiting, with a smile of ineffable joy, an attitude of matchless grace and dignity…As he is about to clasp her he feels a stunning blow upon the back of the neck; a blinding white light blazes all about him with a sound like the shock of a cannon- then all is darkness and silence. (204). Rather than accepting his own fate, Peyton resists death by imagining an elaborate fantasy of an alternate fate. Ambrose Bierce’s incorporation of setting, point of view, and theme produces an illustrious short story for all readers. Bierce makes the story relatable to all humans in the fight to cheat death. Knowledge of the civil war gears the reader’s understanding behind the actions that are taking place. Third person point of view is an effective way to keep the reader guessing and hanging on a limb.
In an instant the whole story comes together, all the confusion, reality versus fantasy comes clear in the last sentence, “Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek Bridge” (Bierce, 204). The reader finds out Peyton is dead at the very last second of the story in an instant Peyton gives in and loses his battle against death. Work Cited Bierce, Ambrose. “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge. ” Edgar V. Roberts. Writing About Literature. Brief 11th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2006. 251
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