Analysis of "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"

Essay by keakin1 April 2006

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"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce is about a middle-aged man named Peyton Farquhar who is punished for his attempt to destroy the Owl Creek Bridge. The short story gives readers a glimpse into the thoughts running through Peyton's delusional head directly before his death and dramatizes a flashback of scenes leading up to the tragic event. Bierce does an outstanding job with his descriptions of scenery and builds up of suspense due to the manipulation of time.

The story would not be considered traditional in stages of dramatic development. The story is told in three non-chronological parts. Bierce builds suspense within the first part of the short story by beginning with the middle of the story or rising action. He begins the story with a description of Peyton Farquhar all tied up and ready to be hung. He sets readers up by taking his time in describing the mood, setting, and surroundings.

He includes some of Peyton's thoughts and explains the location of the soldiers. "As these thoughts, which have here to be set down in words, were flashed into the doomed man's brain rather than evolved from it, the captain nodded to the sergeant. The sergeant stepped aside." Suddenly, at this suspenseful line, the story jumps to part two. This line also displays a bit of foreshadowing. The word doomed shows that death is likely in the next couple of seconds. At this point, readers find themselves questioning what Farquhar had done to put him in this type predicament and want to read on to find out if Peyton will survive. In part two, Peyton Farquhar has a flashback and readers get some background information on him. Here the events, which led up to part one, are also revealed. In a typical short story, this...