Ever find yourself in a horrifying situation, wishing it was only a nightmare you would soon wake up from? In the fictional short story, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”, author Ambrose Bierce tells the story of a man who finds himself in such a situation. Part one begins with an unnamed fugitive and a group of Federal Union Soldiers standing on a railroad bridge in Alabama. The story takes place during the American Civil War. The man is a civilian who is awaiting execution by way of hanging. As he waits, the man stares down at the water below the bridge thinking about the ways he could escape and find his way home to his family (Bierce).
Part two transitions into a detailed description of the main character, Peyton Farquhar, a wealthy slave owner from Alabama. He was a Confederate supporter determined to support the army by any means necessary. Peyton was not able to join the army due to personal issues, yet devoted his life for an opportunity to serve. When a soldier dressed in a Confederate uniform rides up to his house asking for water, an opportunity finally arises. The soldier explains that Union troops are in the process of rebuilding a bridge over Owl Creek. The soldier also informs Peyton there has been an order issued stating anyone interfering with the construction of the bridge will be hanged. Then, after telling Peyton a pile of highly flammable driftwood lies near the bridge, the soldier leaves. After nightfall, the soldier again passes the plantation heading north. Turns out he was a federal scout (Bierce).
Part Three of the story transitions the reader back to the original scene of the man, we now know as Peyton Farquhar, and the confederate soldiers on the bridge. As he falls through the bridge, unable to think in a clear manner, he is able to free his hands from the bindings. After removing the noose from around his neck, he finds himself arising to the surface of the water. Bierce takes the reader through a whirlwind description of Farquhar escaping soldier bullets, cannonballs, and a surging vortex that finally forces him to the shore. Ecstatic and full of joy from escaping a near certain death, Farquhar flees to find his way home. After spending the entire day tackling a wild forest, he finally reaches the gate to his plantation. He spots his beautiful wife. However, before he has the chance to embrace her, he feels a powerful force to the back of his neck. Then, a bright white light disappears into complete darkness. Turns out, Peyton was never swimming down the creek, nor was he standing at the gate of his plantation. His body was hanging under Owl Creek Bridge. He was dead (Bierce).
Although not a huge fan of reading, this short story really caught my attention. The author, Ambrose, used a creative approach at the beginning that can leave the reader with no choice but to quickly read on. Sometimes when looking back at historical events, we can find ourselves solely concentrating on the “commercialized” main event and...