An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge

By: Ambrose Bierce

Plot Line

1. Exposition

The beginning of this story is the exposition. It opens with the scene of Peyton being readied for execution by hanging. It describes the scene as Owl Creek Bridge in northern Alabama.

2. Rising Action

As Peyton is prepared to be hanged, he imagines what were to happen if the rope were to snap.

3. Climax

The rope snaps as he is dropped from the bridge, and he escapes the guns and canons of the federalists as he swims down stream.

4. Falling Action

He slowly makes his way home, and reaches the gate of his house.

5. Resolution

Right as he hugs his wife, he is awakened from his dream by the rope snapping his neck.

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The theme of this story is "Dream all you want, reality will catch up to you." Right as Peyton's fantasy culminates, he is tugged back to reality by the rope breaking his neck



The most important character is clearly Peyton, as he is the protagonist. In the beginning he is characterized indirectly through is calm and steadiness while being prepared for hanging. Later the author pauses to directly address his appearance, and his attitude towards the war and the North.

The River:

I think the river is an important character as well. It is defined as slow and sluggish in the beginning, but as it carries Spencer away from danger, he realizes how much it has helped him. He is grateful for it.


The central conflict is man vs. self. Peyton is struggling with his belief that he will escape and see his family, and his rationalization that he will be executed. He cannot believe that he will indeed be killed.
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Literary Device


The story ends with a terrific example of figurative language; "...a blinding light blazes all about him with a sound like the shock of a cannon - then all is darkness and silence." This a great simile that brings this death experience to life for the reader.

Why Read?

I would read this book for the curious conflict between a man and his imagination. It's intriguing, and definitely a surprise at the end.