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Analysis of "an Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"

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"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"

"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," by Ambrose Bierce, is the story of the hanging of a Civil War era Southern gentleman by the name of Peyton Farquhar. The story begins with an unidentified man being prepared to be hanged by a company of Union soldiers on a railroad bridge that runs over a river. He is then identified as Peyton Farquhar, a man who attempted to destroy the very bridge they are standing on based on information he was given by a Federal scout posing as a Confederate soldier. As he is dropped from the bridge to hang, the rope snaps and he falls into the river. After freeing himself and returning to the surface of the river, he realizes that his senses are all much heightened and he even "noted the prismatic colors in all the dewdrops upon a million blades of grass" (153). Peyton then begins to swim downstream as he is being shot at by the soldiers and a cannon as well. He soon pulls himself ashore and begins the long journey home. After walking all day and night, to the point where "his tongue was swollen with thirst" and "he could no longer feel the roadway beneath his feet" he finally makes it to his home (155). Just as he is about to embrace his wife he feels a sharp pain in his neck and hears a loud snap. He is dead from the hanging, and all this was just a dream. "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" shows the potential strength that a person's will to live can have, and that we often don't appreciate life fully until it's gone.

Peyton Farquhar is a very flat and static character. This serves to make the central idea of this very powerful need for life more applicable to humans universally, rather than the story of his experience alone. One thing that can be seen about his character though, is that he never appreciated life or took notice of his surroundings as fully as he did after he almost dies. For example, after reaching the shore of the river while being shot at, he noticed how beautiful and fragrant the trees were and "he had no wish to perfect his escape- was content to remain in that enchanting spot until retaken" (155).

There are two conflicts that play a very important role in this story. The first is the obvious one, Peyton against the Union soldiers. It is because of these soldiers that he is in this position in the first place. A Union



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