An Occurrence at Owl Creek Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Jun 25th, 2019

In the story, An Occurrence at the Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce, the author shows how an individual perceives time. The depiction of time in the story shows the fluid nature of time (Bierce, n.d). The author uniquely uses the nature of time to narrate a story from a present time to that of the past. In the real sense, the author imagines the present by using the past. Time is of the essence in the story as it reveals the various issues that affect the lives of other characters.

To some extent, the author perception on time is not same to that of other characters. It is interesting to observe how the author uses time to interrupt a continuous flow of events. The author uses time to depict events that exemplify reality. Perhaps the author deems that time favors the fate of each character in the story. The main character in the story perceives time not to favor him. For example, Farquhar thinks that time goes slow on his side compare to others.

In the story, Farquhar seems entangled in his own timeless realm. In this respect, the author tries to portray the feelings of the character in a metaphorical manner. For example, the author calls Farquhar “a vast pendulum” (Chapter III, p.3) to show how he is unconscious of the current happenings.

The author uses the metaphor of time to explain how one can drift into semi-consciousness. This time can either be exhibited in the symbol of sleeping or going into a dream. For example, “Farquhar closes his eyes to fix his thoughts” (Chapter II, p.2). At this point it is clear that the present events are not favorable to Farquhar. At this time, time depicts a transitional place that is between the present and the past.

The depiction of time as subjective by the author is intriguing. Perhaps this is the reason why Farquhar attempts to manipulate time. Farquhar sees this manipulation of time as a good way of escaping reality. However, the subjective nature ultimately allows important events like death to claim the character.

At this point, it is clear that Farquhar has used the time to create confusion between reality and illusion. The reader only realizes the gap bridged between reality and illusion by the author at the end of the story. Perhaps this confusion and interruption of real events depicts how people struggle to control time and events that affect them in the real life.

Through time, the author creates a fantasy world for Farquhar. The manner in which Farquhar imagines his death escape is as a result of a past reflection “as a federal scout” (Chapter 1, p.1) of the northern scout. During his imagination, Farquhar traverses time to perceive himself as a confederate soldier.

The author has used the driftwood as a symbol of time. Just like a clock, the driftwood helps Farquhar to travel through the waters. The driftwood is a distortion of time as he fantasizes being the driftwood. The speed in which the driftwood move through the waters leaves Farquhar wondering how slow and fast is time. In fact, the existence of the driftwood becomes a symbol of how Farquhar perceives time.

In conclusion, the author seems to use the story to question the reader’s perception on time. This becomes evident when the author uses foreshadowing in the story to show that indeed Farquhar’s story was fictional. In general, the author seeks to know whether the reader is conscious of the present and whether the present is a reality.


Bierce, A. (n.d). An occurrence at owl Creek Bridge. Retrieved from

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