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In: English and Literature

Submitted By angigilbert
Words 801
Pages 4
TUI University

MODULE 1: Case Study
English Composition 2

Dr. Mike Frangos

12 October 2013

"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," by Ambrose Bierce, was set during the Civil War in Alabama. This gave me an insight to life during the war and what happens to people if they take sides. The author chronicled the experience of a southern secessionist identified as Peyton Farquhar, who was condemned to death by hanging from Owl Creek Bridge. Bierce's sequence of writing goes from the present time then to a flashback, an imagined present or fantasy, then back to the present again.
The story began with an unidentified man being prepared to be hanged by a company of Union soldiers on a railroad bridge that runs over a river. His hands were behind his back, his wrists were in cords, and there was a rope around his neck. He and a couple of soldiers were the only people on the bridge. After all of the essential preparations, the two soldiers stepped aside and were ready to perform their duties. And then the author transferred the reality to the main character’s thoughts, having the reader view Peyton’s thoughts also as reality. “He looked a moment at his "unsteadfast footing," then let his gaze wander to the swirling water of the stream racing madly beneath his feet." Peyton Farquhar grew up as a rich southerner. He had everything that a man could ever want at that point in time: a wife, children, land and slaves. However, he had always felt something as if something was still missing. Due to the fact he was unable to fight in the army, he did not feel like he was truly 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 realize the pains and emotions that he was experiencing were more of a man hanging, than of one that just escaped from one. 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 mentions the pain he experiences in his neck and he was 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 experienced thirst so great that his tongue was beginning to swell, but his tongue was really swelling from the pressure applied by the rope itself. 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 was like he was walking on air, which proved to be an indication of the hanging.
Peyton also notices a very loud, striking sound as he tries to concentrate on his wife and children. The noise of his own pocket watch and the noise is so vibrant because in his mind the watch, and consequently time for him, is slowing down. At this point in the story, Farquhar uses a special trick: he closes his eyes and concentrates on the scene around him and then turns his thoughts resolutely toward his family. Memorizing the surroundings allowed him to visualize where he would go and what type of movements he would use for his hopeful escape.
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 in this story. 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 very end, but Peyton Farquhar did neither. Instead he tried to envision himself as something that he is not, a warrior. For his entire life, he wanted to be a soldier, a hero, but he was not. He has always envisioned that he could be a hero, so why not spend his last few moments of life fantasizing about it again. It was a cowardly way to meet your end if you ask me.

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