An Occurance At Owl Creek Bridge

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade April 2001

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Ambrose Bierce's story, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge", is a masterfully crafted, highly cynical tale of a northern Alabama man's death by hanging during the American Civil War. Ambrose Bierce himself served with the Union troops during the war and perhaps this is where he obtained his cynicism with regards to the South's rich plantation owners. Whatever the case may be Ambrose Bierce created a story that is captivating at every level of reading. The account is full of exiting sensual details for the surface reader, as well as many symbolic icons for those who choose to step into the story on a deeper level.. Throughout the account Bierce uses symbolism to give depth to the story.

The first symbolic icon that we see in this story is the water that is rushing below the doomed mans, "unsteadfast footing" (110). In many literary works water is representative of life.

Bierce made no exception in his story. There are two ways in which the water of Owl Creek is a symbol of life for the man who is about to be hung. First we have the more literal sense. "If I could free my hands, I might throw off the noose and spring into the stream "¦ and get away home" (111), thinks the condemned man. In this instance the water is the possible physical means for the man's escape from death to life. The second way in which the presence of the stream could be interpreted is that it is the mans life that is swiftly passing by. The first time that he notices the stream is when he realizes the precarious nature of his footing. At this point he realizes that he is about to die and very soon. Also at this point Ambrose describes...