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Sunday, January 16, 2011

"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"

The "reality" of this story is not within the story itself, but it is psychologically placed in the events of the story only to lengthen the story and give more suspense and build to the protagonist's, Peyton Fahrquhar, ultimate demise. Most of the story is utilized as a common body similar to that of many stories, but it does have a unique element to it, which is a creative blend of the seeming passing of time to show the reason behind Fahrquhar's hanging, what he wants the future to hold, and what the future truly holds. Just as he begins his plummet down to the meeting of his gravity and a rope wrapped tightly around his neck, Fahrquhar imagines a very happy ending to his unfortunate situation, one in which he is able to fall down to the river below, swim away from the guards, swim onto shore, run through the forest, and eventually make it safely back home to his waiting children and loving wife, the entire time also with an increasingly sharp pain in his neck (Bierce). The reality of this sequence of events is that he truly does fall from the bridge, only to be caught by the thick rope, breaking his neck and, needless to say, ending his life. Realism is focused mainly on facts and depicting them as they happen, so this story, to say, is not strong on the realist terms because all of the main plot is held within the imagination and is not actually happening. However, if the imaginary events were to have been real, the story would be extremely realist. Every detail of his miraculous escape is covered to the T in that Bierce recounts even minute details, such as, "then all at once, with terrible suddenness, the light about him shot upward with the noise of a loud splash; a frightful roaring was in his ears, and all was cold and dark" (Bierce). Fahrquhar's plunge into the river below is described in this small excerpt using visual effects, sound, and emotions of fear and uncertainty as his descent begins. But, the ultimate reality shown in Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" is given in the last line of the story. He uses so much suspense and gives the reader a sense of satisfaction in that Fahrquhar "got away," only to take it all away by saying, "Peyton Fahrquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge" (Bierce). In this case, Fahrquhar realizes that death is something he can try to hide from, but he must also embrace it when it eventually finds him. His death is not celebrated nor ignored; it is not happy or sad. To the guards on duty, being his only witnesses, it is work. And, eventually, those men will face the same fate as Fahrquhar is facing because it is impossible to avoid. "Death...is the inevitable reality common to us all" (Werlock).


Works Cited

Bierce, Ambrose. "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." Page by Page Books. 2004. Web. 16 Jan. 2011. .

Werlock, Abby H. P. "'Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge'." The Facts On File Companion to the American Short Story, Second Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2009. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= CASS629&SingleRecord=True (accessed January 17, 2011).

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