An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge

1381 words - 6 pages

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, written by Ambrose Bierce in 1890-1891, depicts an antiwar motif of the American Civil War. Bierce uses dramatic irony, descriptive imagery and the theme of time. The war was fought from 1861 to 1865 after seven Southern slave states declared their secession and formed the Confederate States of America, also known as the “Confederacy” or the “South.” The remaining states were known as the “Union” or the “North.” The war’s origin was the issue of slavery, especially the extension of slavery into the western territories of the United States. After four years of bloody combat, over 600,000 soldiers were dead and much of the South’s infrastructure had been ...view middle of the document...

The soldiers in the story symbolize the coldness and brutality of war. Bierce describes the soldiers as “staring stonily, motionless,” and could have been “statues to adorn the bridge,” as if the soldiers are acting out the insensible roles of war, lacking humanity (653).
After the introduction to the story, Farquhar is about to be hanged and his mind enters the flashback. One evening, Farquhar and his wife were greeted by a soldier dressed in a Confederate uniform at their home, who told Farquhar of the advances of the Southern army. The soldier continued, saying the Yanks, or soldiers of the North, were repairing the railroads and getting ready for another advance and that there was not much for security on Owl Creek Bridge. As a reader, we find out that the soldier that shows up at the house is actually a Federal soldier, which is a clever use of dramatic irony by Bierce (655). The readers find out that a man dressed as a Confederate soldier basically tricked Farquhar into believing that it was possible to sabotage the bridge by setting it ablaze. The soldier lures him into the trap, as anyone caught interfering with the railroads would face execution, which is Farquhar’s fate. This dramatic irony also protests the idea of war, specifically, a civil war, where brother fights brother and families are divided. An example of this within the story would be the rhetorical assumption that the Confederates brought about their own demise, as Farquhar did in An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.
Bierce’s writing style in this short story is captivating. He is able to drastically change storylines, allowing the readers to completely forget what was going beforehand. When the story begins, Farquhar is found suspended from a noose over a river, about to die. Bierce changes stories almost instantly. The story is moved to the flashback of Farquhar and the soldier, and then quickly transferred into the subconscious mind of Farquhar, when he is drowning in the river and escaping to safety. During this part of the story, the reader almost forgets about what is actually happening due to the eloquence in Bierce’s writing style. He uses very descriptive words, scenes, and situations. This use of imagery provides the reader with a glimmer of hope for Farquhar. A well-to-do man was tricked into his own death; so naturally, readers are going to find themselves rooting for Farquhar’s escape. Bierce uses descriptive words and phrases, such as, “from this state he was awakened…” describing Farquhar being dead, but coming back to life. This brings an unnatural situation to the story, where readers are willing to believe this unrealistic phenomenon simply because the readers want him to survive (656). Bierce also describes the way Farquhar comes back into reality, making sure to include the coming into consciousness of his mind, as Bierce describes it “the power of thought was restored,” to the opening of his eyes in the darkness to finding the light...

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