Owl Creek Bridge - Bierce Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :



Peyton Farquhar is not a soldier, but a wealthy plantation owner who was attracted to the possibility of dignifying himself by being of service to the South during the civil war. Tricked by a federal scout into trying to do something heroic for the South, he is about to hang from the bridge that he intended to burn. Bierce describes Farquhar's experience as one of extreme agony, followed by hope of survival. Farquhar feels devastating pain, but finds himself in the river, escaping from the soldiers with his senses "preternaturally keen and alert. Something in the awful disturbance of his organic system had so exalted and refined them that they made record of things never before perceived"(Hopkins/Bierce 309.)

This is the first clue that something is amiss, and that Farquhar is not in the world of physical reality.

Bierce's imagination of the confusion, pain and altered state that accompanies a violent death is keenly honed. In the scene that continues with Farqhar's escape from volleys of bullets, swimming down the river and the thrill of sand and gravel in his hands, Bierce gives us his impression of the last encounter with hope in a dying man. Farquhar travels all day through the wild woods, and sees "great golden starts looking unfamiliar and grouped in strange constellations"(Hopkins/Bierce 312). By this point in the story it is clear that Farquhar is not in a state of reality, and it is confirmed when he unexpectedly sees his home and wife.

Of course, the escape, the daylong journey through the strange woods and his encounter with his wife has only taken place in Farquhar's mind in his last seconds of life

The "occurrence" at the bridge is connected with Farquhar's personal experience of a brutal death, and not with the hanging itself. Bierce wants his readers to know that there is nothing noble or glamorous about dying for a cause. Death in service to a cause offers no reward or reprieve, no matter how loyal or well-intentioned its victim. Farquhar, in all his bravery, dedication, wealth and determination is reduced to having a final experience that evokes pity and horror on the part of the reader, and does not impart any sense of honor about the ultimate sacrifice in war.

In spite of Bierce's message, he was ironically attracted to war, as was his character, Farquhar.

Bierce stayed on in the military for many years and later in his life, went to Mexico to fight alongside Pancho Villa, where he finally disappeared and was, perhaps, executed.

Works Cited

Hopkins, Ernest J. Ed. Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce.University of Nebraska Press/Doubleday: Lincoln, NE: 1970.

Korb, Rena "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge: The Portrayal of a Character's Inner Psychology www.enotes.com:2006.

Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia, "Ambrose Bierce" 2006 http://encarta.msn.com© 1997-2006 Microsoft Corporation.

Singletary, Stacey Ann, University of No Carolina at Pembroke. ww.enotes.com:2006..

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Hopkins, Ernest J. Ed. Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce.University of Nebraska Press/Doubleday: Lincoln, NE: 1970.

Korb, Rena "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge: The Portrayal of a Character's Inner Psychology www.enotes.com:2006.

Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia, "Ambrose Bierce" 2006 http://encarta.msn.com© 1997-2006 Microsoft Corporation.

Singletary, Stacey Ann, University of No Carolina at Pembroke. ww.enotes.com:2006..

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