An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

By Ambrose Bierce

Plot Line

Exposition: This story is about a 35 year old man named Peyton Farquhar. He lives in Alabama during an American Civil War against the North and South. This story starts off with Farquhar about to be hung by the enemy on the Owl Creek bridge above a river. "A man stood upon a railroad bridge in Northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below." (11)

Rising Action: Farquhar is about to be hung. At this point during the story, he is experiencing both internal and external conflict. He is trying to face the reality inside that he is going to dye. On the outside, he has to face the fact that he is about to be killed by his enemy. "He opened his eyes in the darkness and saw above him a gleam of light. 'To be hanged and drowned,' he though, 'That isn't so bad; But I do not wish to be shot. No, I will not be shot; This is not fair." (16)

Climax: The plank from underneath him is pulled and Farquhar begins to fall into the river. He thinks he is dead but he is not. The rope had broken around his neck. "He was conscious of motion. Encompassed in a luminous cloud, of which he was now merely the fiery heart, without material substance, he swung through unthinkable arcs of oscillation, like a vast pendulum." (16) He was alive in the water, suffocated by the bruise left from the rope. But he wasn't dead.

Falling action: He swam as fast as he could, dodging bullets as he swam to shore. He reached the woods and started running home. "Farquhar dived-dives as deeply as he could. The water roared in his ears like the voice of Niagara, yet he heard the dulled thunder of the volley and rising again toward the surface, met shining bits of metal, singularly flattened, oscillating slowly downward." (18)

Resolution: "Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge." (19) His escape was all an illusion and he died right before reaching out to hug his wife.

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Theme

I think that the theme of this book is that your illusions and dreams only last so long and soon reality will catch up with you. This is the theme of the story because when Farquhar was about to be hanged, he knew that he was going to die so he created an illusion, very similar to reality, to escape what terrible things were about to happen.

Sybolism

There was two times that I saw symbolism in this story. One was when the author described the driftwood in the river. "A piece of dancing driftwood caught his attention and his eyes followed it down the current. How slowly it appeared to move! What a sluggish stream!" (13) I think that the driftwood symbolizes Farquhar in a way because this leads him to the idea of escaping through the water. The way that Farquhar gets down the river during his illusion, is similar to the way the driftwood went down the river. There is also a lot of Figurative Language in this story. " He was conscious of motion. Encompassed in a luminous cloud, of which he was now the fiery heart, without material substance, he swung through unthinkable arcs of oscillation, like a vast pendulum." (16) This section of the text took place in Farquhar's illusion while he imagined himself falling into the water after be hung, but the rope had broken around his neck and he was still alive. This is an example of a metaphor: 'He swung through unthinkable arcs of oscillation, like a vast pendulum.'

You Should Read This Story Because...

This short story is riveting from the start and keeps you on the edge of your seat. The ending leaves you shocked and you won't believe what happens. The author's figurative language creates a picture in your mind of what is happening and you just want to read more and more. I would recommend this story to any person who wants to read a grasping, somewhat violent, and creative story.
Occurrance at Owl Creek Bridge