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Critical Essay On Ambrose Bierce And "An Occurence At Owl Creek Bridge".

1195 words - 5 pages

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914), better known as "Bitter Bierce" is one of the most mysterious writers of all time. His life is portrayed as an example of one of his pieces, a life with no apparent ending but more of a disappearance. His style was ill-humored, grotesque, and very unorthodox. Throughout the story, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge", Bierce uses ample examples of realism, yet he detests it.The story begins when Peyton Farquhar is about to be executed by hanging; with a rope around his neck, He stands on a plank on the edge of a bridge, and when the plank is removed he will fall into the water below, yet never reaching it, due to the shortness of the rope which will both break his neck and strangle him.However, in that brief time between the fall off the plank and the jerk of his body weight at the end of the rope, Farquhar visions himself escaping the execution. He pictures himself hitting the water, untying his hands, swimming to the shore, and running through the woods to his plantation to his wife. He even concludes that something about this whole thing is not quite right, but disregards most of the clues which would foreshadow his death. He compares the crack of his neck breaking to a rifle shot, and the extension of his tongue during strangulation as a sign of thirst. But all these events will not make a difference, because it's nothing more than his "life passing before his eyes".The setting is set in the middle of the Civil War, the conflict between the Union and the Confederacy. The main cause of the war was slavery but many other aspects played a role as well. The Southern states depended on slavery to maintain their economy. The main debate between the North and the South on the eve of the war was whether slavery should be allowed in the Western territories which were recently obtained during the Mexican War. Those against slavery were concerned about its expansion, because they did not want to compete against slave labor.Farquhar's plantation was approximately thirty miles from Owl Creek Bridge. He hoped to arrive at the bridge well before the Union Army did, to burn the bridge down. The Union forces were well-known for burning down plantation homes as they moved through the South. Farquhar's actions were an effort to save his home and family. Many of Farquhar's encounters with the Union soldiers don't quite make sense, just like the thirst and the rifle shot. For example, Bierce tells us that Farquhar and his wife were told about the movements of the Union Army by "an old, grey-clad soldier" who stopped at their home for a drink. A soldier in a grey uniform meant that he was not a member of the Union Army, because if it were so obvious Farquhar's wife would not have been so "happy to serve him with her own white hands". Therefore the soldier was dressed as a Confederate soldier. But one could conclude that the man certainly knew a lot about the Union Army's plans for a Confederate soldier. And isn't his arrival just a bit...

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