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Survived By His Wife And Children

1440 words - 6 pages

Peyton Farquhar is the main character in Ambrose Bierce’s An Occurrence at Owl Creek, a narrative about Farquhar’s eventual hanging for his support of the confederate army during the civil war. The fractured nature of the narrative allows the plot to culminate at a one point where the final connection is made. Peyton Farquhar’s eventual death allows for a window into his final moments on earth as a living being. Moving through his mind alongside him as he escapes death and makes his way through the woods to his wife and children illustrates Farquhar’s unwavering faithfulness to his family, even when facing death. His duty to support his family is both consciously and unconsciously his first priority. His escape was not just an attempt at survival driven by human instinct, but rather a commitment to return to his beloved family, the first priority of Farquhar’s life. A commitment so strong that his will to return to his family surpasses all logic and basic instinct even when it is solely a construct of the mind. One of Farquhar’s strongest feelings, his abhorrence for the Union army, does not enter his mind during his escape. This is especially remarkable since this group is responsible for permanently removing Farquhar from his family’s life. This is evident in Farquhar’s final thoughts before being hanged, his only apparent reason for escape, returning home to his family, and the journey he perseveres through to return home before his true fate is revealed.
The conventional belief is that anyone facing imminent death uses his or her final moment to think about those who mean the most in his or her life. While this is nearly impossible confirm, it seems that the overwhelming finality of death would render any subsequent thought subordinate. In the case of Peyton Farquhar, “he closed his eyes in order to fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children” (Bierce, 302). Not only did Farquhar make family his final thought, he closed his eyes in order to deliberately prevent any outside force from interrupting his thoughts. Farquhar even acknowledges that surrounding him are many distractions. These included “[the] water, touched to gold by the early sun, the brooding mists under the banks at some distance down the stream, the fort, the soldiers, [and] the piece of drift (302). Even the sound of his watch that “struck through the thought of his dear ones” attempted to take him from his thoughts of home (302). However, once clear of all distractions, Farquhar’s attention returns to his wife and kids. His objective in escaping is to return home, contemplating that if “[he] could evade the bullets and, swimming vigorously, reach the bank, take to the woods and get away home”, all would be well (302). One cannot help but notice that his objective is not to make it to safety or find Confederate soldiers to retaliate, but rather to return to his home, thirty miles away. Further evidence of his loyalty to family is present when Farquhar...

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