Perceptions in An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and The Story of an Hour
In "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" and "The Story of an Hour," the authors use similar techniques to create different tones, which in turn illicit very distinct reactions from the reader. Both use a third person narrator with a limited omniscient point of view to tell of a brief, yet significant period of time. In "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," Bierce uses this method to create an analytical tone to tell the story of Farquhar's experience just before death. In "The Story of an Hour," Chopin uses this method to create an involved, sympathetic tone to relay the story of Mrs. Mallard's experience just before death. These stories can be compared on the basis of their similar points of view and conclusions as well as their different tones.
In "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," Ambrose Bierce recreates a few brief seconds of time for a man being executed whose cognition of these seconds is perceived as the better part of a full day. "All that day he traveled…" (paragraph 33). "In "The Story of an Hour," Kate Chopin relates a meaningful, yet unusual hour of time as the last one lived for a woman who has been given the news of her husband's death in a "railroad disaster" (paragraph 2). "She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment…" (paragraph 3). Both stories are centered on the powerful emotions that occur within the minds of the characters as they live out the last moments of their lives. The narrators reveal the most intimate thoughts of each character.
In "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, " Bierce focuses on detail and the dramatic revelation of Farquhar's dying thoughts as he desperately tries to escape the hangmen. This creates a suspenseful journey that seems to see him freed from his noose and carried almost home to the loving arms of his wife. "As these thoughts, which have here to be set down in words, were flashed into the doomed man's brain rather than evolved from it…" (paragraph 7). This period of time in which we follow along in our minds seems to last through the day. In the end we find that the time was only in Farquhar's head and was really only the last few seconds of his life as he saw it before the rope broke his neck. However, the hanging is not the most significant part of the story because Bierce's third person narrator remains focused on the details of the perceived passing of the time rather than the action. Although the hanging is an action necessary to Farquhar's experience, it remains in the shadows of the story, as we believe he escapes death and are drawn into his head to struggle with him towards home and freedom. This point of view entices the reader more deeply into the episode than would a less knowing point of view.
Bierce plays a mind game with the reader that explores an...