An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
By Ambrose Bierce
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.
Peyton Farquhar is the 35 year old main character of this story, living in Alabama with his wife and children. He has be captured by the 'Yanks,' and is about to be hung on Owl Creek Bridge. While up on the plank, about to be hung, Farquhar falls into an illusion, removing himself from the reality that he is going to die. Through direct characterization we learn that Farquhar is a "well to do planter on an old and highly respected Alabama family." (14) He is both a politician and a slave owner who is very loyal to the South. We learn through indirect characterization that he is a very caring but foolish man because he was unprepared when taking on the role of a federal scout.
Farquhar's wife plays a small, but important role in this story. While Farquhar is being hung, he kept thinking back to his wife and children, and how desperately he wanted to get home to them. "He closed his eyes in order to fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children." (13) She is more of an imagined presence during this story.
The Enemy, the 'Yanks'
In this story, the 'Yanks' were the enemies of the South during the Civil War. This is one of the enemy leaders about to hang Peyton Farquhar.