An Occurrence At Owl Bridge: The Hardships Of Civil War

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The short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” Author Ambrose Bierce takes place during the time of the Civil War. Payton Farquhar is the main character and is sentenced to die by standing at the end of a wooden plank over the creek on Owl Creek Bridge while a Confederate soldier stands at the opposite end keeping the board straight and level. When Farquhar is standing at the end of the plank he travels through time by imagining that he has escaped and is back with his wife. The short story goes through three sections and each section has emotional and perspective differences.The author takes us through different moments in Farquhars time before his death and is left thinking about the nature of time.

Bierce manipulates the readers while developing the story the way it is. When the author states that Farguhar is a slave owner puts the story on a certain timeline. The time period of this story does create a certain perception of Payton Farquhar. The author puts small symbols in the story that do actually have a big significance to the development of the short story. One sign that oddly important is the blacksmith’s hammer and the noise it makes when hitting a seperate object. It shows how his perception is being tampered with between him wanting to be with his family and focusing on the sound the hammer is making. He is also trying to decide if the sound is close or far away, giving the reader a better understanding that he is fading from reality to his memory. Death is the big reason everything is happening with the visions. Farquhar knowing death is his only option at the moment is causing him to wish he was somewhere else with his family. He began to let thoughts consume him especially him escaping. The author before the third section stuck with a certain way of writing and doesn't add much emotion to Farquhar. During the third section it is more emotional based by the death of farquhar actually happening. The reader is lead to believe that the escape is true until the third section. Time is interrupted in the third section when he is hung.

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Time is distorted by going back and forth between the present time and past time. Farquhar knows his time is ticking away. He sees a piece of driftwood going down the stream and shuts his eyes to get away from the present. He pushes away the outside distractions and thinks about his wife and children. He is going to a happy time in his life while on the outside time is flying by. He soon is interrupted by a loud ticking noise. He hears this metal ringing and knows it is close by. He is now brought back to present day and stares at the water. Knowing he is about to be hanged it has put him in a state of distress. His brain is trying to escape this by making him re- experience happy memories or visions to put him at ease. As the ticking continues the speed of it slows down and becomes more quiet. That symbolises that he is coming back to the present time since the ticking was very loud when he was taking part of the memory.

When Payton Farquhar begins to hallucinate he does not come back to the present time. He believes he is in a timeless realm or alternate time. He creates his own ending to his situation and enters a space that is not life or death. When he enters this timeless realm his senses become broad and he loses most of them. He has such a strong urge to be anywhere else and doing anything else rather than on the plank his senses convince him that he is being freed. He believes that he slips out the noose or ligature and goes underwater. When Farquhar hits the water his scenes that were shut off are awaken. He then slips out of the rope that has his hands tied and swims down the stream like the driftwood. When he rises to the top of the water he begins to figure out what is next. While swimming he hears bullets enter the water. He can sense the bullets coming close by his head. He saw the man shooting at him through the sight of the rifle. Bierce described the experience as “He observed that it was a gray eye and remembered having read that gray eyes were keenest, and that all famous marksmen had them.Nevertheless, this one had missed.” He then spends all night getting back to his home. He finally reaches the front gate of his home. As he opens his front gates “He sees a flutter of female garments; his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet, steps down from the veranda to meet him.” When he is about to hug her he feels pain in his neck. The author shows that time had been distorted by keeping him in the fantasy world as the soldier steps off the plank and sends Farquhar to his death by hanging.

Throughout “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”, The nature of time is challenged by different emotions in different sections of the story, fading between memories, and creating and entering a false alternate time. The author makes it obvious that the nature of time can not be escaped or altered. Bierce proves that time and reality can be persuaded to make you believe something is happening when it isn’t. Even though Bierce leads us to believe that Peyton Farquhar has actually escaped he brings us back to reality that there can only be one outcome and that is death for Farquhar.

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