An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose BierceThe condemned man stands on a bridge, his hands bound behind his back. A noose is tied around his neck. In a moment he will meet his fate: DEATH BY HANGING. There is no escape. Or is there? Find out in . . . An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.
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'An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge' by Ambrose Bierce
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The story, which is set during the American Civil War, is known for its irregular time sequence and twist ending. Bierce's abandonment of strict linear narration in favor of the internal mind of the protagonist is an early example of the stream of consciousness narrative mode. Peyton Farquhar, a civilian and plantation owner, is being prepared for execution by hanging from an Alabama railroad bridge during the American Civil War. Six military men and a company of infantrymen are present, guarding the bridge and carrying out the sentence. Farquhar thinks of his wife and children and is then distracted by a noise that, to him, sounds like an unbearably loud clanging; it is actually the ticking of his watch. He considers the possibility of jumping off the bridge and swimming to safety if he can free his tied hands, but the soldiers drop him from the bridge before he can act on the idea.
Words in This Story
First published in , this very dark very-short-story classic of death by hanging is loaded with atmosphere and substance., Toggle navigation Comma Press.
The first part of the story begins with a description of a man about to be hung from Owl Creek Bridge by two soldiers. In the moment's before the man's death, time seems to distort and slow down. The man considers the possibility that if the rope snapped, he could escape death by swimming in the river below him. The second part of the story is a flashback to the man, now named Peyton Farquhar, as an Alabama planter longing to aid the Confederate army in whatever way possible. A passing soldier says that Farquhar can destroy the Owl Creek Bridge, in order to help stop the Northern advance.
The occurrence, or event, in our story takes place during the Civil War of the eighteen sixties between the American states of the north and the states of the south. A group of soldiers is hanging a southern farm owner for trying to stop northern military movements across the Owl Creek Bridge. In the last moments of his life, the southern prisoner dreams he has escaped. And everything that happens in the story is really the images in the prisoner's mind just before he dies. A man stood on a railroad bridge in Alabama looking down into the swift waters of the Owl Creek River below. The man's hands were tied behind his back.