The Quest for Heroism in An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

Essay by andreazentzHigh School, 11th gradeA+, January 2003

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The Quest for Heroism in An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

In An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, Ambrose Bierce portrays the tragic end of the life of the main character, Peyton Farquhar. Paradoxically, Farquhar strives for recognition as a hero, but dies dishonorably. During the Civil War, Farquhar is denied acceptance into the Confederate Army. Still wanting to be a hero, he is caught attempting to burn Owl Creek Bridge. Ironically, he is hanged on that very bridge as punishment. Having had his own experience as a Union officer in the Civil War, Ambrose Bierce illustrates how sometimes the desire for acknowledgment can become so strong that it overshadows the possible consequences, and often times the worst happens. Through setting, characterization, and conflict, Bierce emphasizes that we should always bear in our minds what the consequences of our actions might be.

Peyton Farquhar's life was ordinary before he attempted this scandalous act.

He was a well-to-do planter living on a plantation with a wife and children. While he was denied entry into the army, he still did what he could to help the South. "No adventure was too perilous for him to undertake." As he awaiting his death, his mind races with thoughts of escape. Miraculously, it seems, he does escape and amazingly makes it through perilous situations, which would have otherwise killed him. As he is about to reach his wife, the story reverts back to reality, and Farquhar is hung. His daydream shows that his unconscious mind also made a last attempt at heroism, which allowed him to escape from the horror being put to death. The setting intensifies the irony by Farquhar's life being destroyed at the very place that he wanted to destroy. This depicts that the one thing you desire...