An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge
Self Introduction Essay for College
“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” is a short story written by a renowned American writer Ambrose Bierce. Ambrose was also a Civil War veteran and knew very well about the hardships people face during a war. The writer takes us through the times of the American Civil War. The story explains that there is no love or glory during times of war. The word “occurrence” in the story title indicates how cheap is the value of life and how common the loss of life was during the war. This story is recognized for its twist ending and manipulating time paradigms Ambrose has utilized narrative mode which takes us through a stream of consciousness and explained us the ruthlessness of war.
The way Ambrose has described each scene has been very magnificent. His descriptions of the scenes were so detailed, it looked like he was part of it. The precise description of planks, beams, and ropes which were required to hang Farquhar. The positioning of soldiers, their stance, the intricacies of armed conduct and rituals and the precise diction and terminologies created a very familiar scenario and it all felt real. Ambrose utilized a realist tradition that helped the readers to understand various aspects of war. The thing that I like about this story is its realistic nature and I loved that writer did not romanticize the horrific nature of war.
Ambrose has used illustrations of foreshadowing throughout the story, to act towards the gap between illusion and reality that broadens through the course of the story. This story has been heavily dependent on various twists and unexpected final revelations that made this story so interesting. The writer has peppered various signals or clues throughout the story that helped us visualize the ending. For example, by describing soldiers’ armaments in the opening scenes, the company of infantrymen holding their guns at “parade rest” with the butts to the ground and the commanding officer standing with the point of his sword also to the ground. As I read through the concluding section I was amazed by his fantastic nature, and the ending just startled me.
Ambrose has utilized time variation very efficiently in the story. This shows his unique understanding of time and how it can be utilized throughout the story. The first two sections of the story take place in actual time, while the last section plays out over just a few instants. Farquhar dies in that instant due to his violent drop from the bridge. But Farquhar thinks that it takes place the next day. The best thing about this story is how the writer hides various competing versions of reality through the course of the story.
The Theme of Reality and Illusion in the Novels an Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and Hurt Hawks
What Is Reality? In “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” the story takes place during the Civil War era and the protagonist is named Peyton Farquhar; he is a man who lives in the south and is confederate supporter who owns an immense quantity of land. We then learn that Farquhar becomes a bit more complex when we discover that he exhibits a very huge gap between who he is and an inflated version of he wants to be. Farquhar can be best compared to the Hawk in the poem, “Hurt Hawks” by Robinson Jeffers. In this poem there is a hawk that is mentioned heavily all the way through but the hawk is being described in two ways; the representativeness of it being sick, injured, etc. and the other he is mentioned as full of life, flying freely up in the heavens, but that specific version of the hawk is not a reality but a dream that the original hawk desires to feel like again.
Ambrose Bierce’s story “An occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” and Robinson Jeffers, “Hurt Hawks” both use the blurred line amongst illusion, reality and the theme of freedom and confinement can lead to disastrous consequences. The concept of deciphering between actuality and fantasy or better yet illusion, very much work together in the telling of “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” But, it is until the end of the tale that we discover that there was a severe distinction between the two. During the climax of the telling we are visualizing everything going well for Farquhar then abruptly, speaker began to state, “He moves to embrace her but feels a sharp blow on the back of his neck and sees a blinding white light all about him. Then silence and darkness engulf him. Farquhar is dead”. Very self-explanatory on what just occurred, we discover that what we the readers were being spoon fed was a warped truth of what Farquhar created out of desperation. This can be represented in the poem of “Hart Hawks” as well, at first glance readers may digest this poem as a telling of two separate hawks. One of the hawks is described to be injured from one of its wings and appears to have blood clotting on its shoulder, definitely in its last few days of living. In the separate half of the poem, the Hawk is said to be strong and healthy. Thus creating the idea that this story is about two separate birds, but the author gives us a big hint onto what is really going on. He stated, “At night he remembers freedom and flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it”. Those stanzas where we are reading the Hawk described as strong are actually the Hawk reliving his glory days in his dreams, remembering how great life use to be. Both the Hawk and Farquhar are both victims of not being able to grasp what realism is and what isn’t. To illustrate more similarities between the Hawk and Peyton Farquhar they are both a victim to theme of freedom and confinement. For example, Peyton Farquhar frantically desires freedom from his commitments so he creates a fake altered truth to escape his real life problems. In the state of his demise he stated, “To die of hanging at the bottom of a river! — the idea seemed to him ludicrous”.
Demise for Farquhar’s situation isn’t just terrifying and agonizing, yet in addition hinders to be to some degree entertaining. Farquhar’s demise is absolutely guaranteed, men are waiting at the place of his hanging armed to the neck just in case he decides to run, yet despite everything he envisions the likelihood of breaking free and the possibility of surviving and that may be the craziest thing he could have imagined. Having the ability of flight and soaring through the skies is the very carbon copy of freedom, being able to soar in all that open air, and to feel the wind kissing your wings as you are gliding through the sky. This was how the Hawk in “Hurt Hawks” coped with his desperate sad reality of him not being able to soar amongst the heavens any longer, he would escape into his dreams but would get slapped in the face with reality. But this was paying to be more difficult than imagined, the speaker sees the bird suffering noticing he wasn’t getting better so he then states, “We had fed him for six weeks, I gave him freedom, He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening”. When an animal like the hawk who is a poster child for freedom gets injured and loses that gift, what can you give them to help their situation? Give them the freedom they desire and politely put them out of their suffering so he can be free to roam for eternity. The similarities are uncanny between the Hawk and Farquhar but they do not stop there, in fact if you look a little bit closer you can see that their previous traits all lead to something that they both regretfully had to share as well. They both remorsefully had to be encountered with very disastrous consequences, death.
Upon the reading of “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” we realize that Farquhar has been hung and passed on when he starts describing a heaven like place, the speaker began to illustrate “He dug his fingers into the sand, threw it over himself in handfuls and audibly blessed it. It looked like diamonds, rubies, emeralds; he could think of nothing beautiful which it did not resemble. The trees upon the bank were giant garden plants; he noted a definite order in their arrangement, inhaled the fragrance of their blooms. A strange roseate light shone through the spaces among their trunks and the wind made in their branches the music of Aeolian harps. He had not wish to perfect his escape — he was content to remain in that enchanting spot until retaken. “
Farquhar doesn’t perceive this place to be anything he knows, the music and attractive plant life all lead to the assumption of a heaven like place. As for the Hawk in “Hurt Hawks” we discover the birds passing of the real world to the next when the speaker states, “but what Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising Before it was quite unsheathed from reality”. This was used to symbolize the Hawk being freed from his dying body and gets to fulfill his true wishes of flying forever.
The Unknown and the Anticipation
Suspense is the extraordinary inclination that a crowd of people experiences while hanging tight for the result of specific occasions. It essentially leaves the audience holding their breath and needing more. Like in the short story’s Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, A Good Man is Hard to Find and Where Are You Going Where Have You Been. The writers generate situations that might force readers to comprehend and want to continue reading to see what the characters are facing next. Ambrose Bierce’s short story, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, is a clear instance of suspenseful writing. Bierce’s use of imagination such as how the Hangman intends to flee; specific details such as how the rope breaks and the Hangman evades execution; and figurative language, such as how the Hangman lastly ends, intensifies the action and keeps the listener loaded with fear. Although all these aspects affect how the tale works, it mostly affects how the tale is viewed by the viewer.
In the tale, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, the Author’s use of Imagery, specific information, and figurative language provides the listener with a vibrant feeling of realism and expectation. A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor includes foreshadowing, or hints of serious risk, one is hit at the end of the tale by the unexpected violence. If the story is read a second time, however, the reader can see certain indications of foreshadowing that suggest the story’s end. It is very convincing through the method of powerful imagery by O’Connor to foreshadow the individuals and the events in the tale. There are two important timing the story started with the grandma not wanting to travel to Florida, but to Tennessee where she has some friends to see. She is dressed very nicely with, ‘A navy blue dress with a small white dot in the print. Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet’. Secondly, the foreshadowing of the family’s death is the graveyard when they ‘passed by a cotton field with five or six graves fenced’. It’s not an accident that the ‘five or six’ burial numbers match the precise amount of individuals in the vehicle.
Even though there are five individuals and a child. It is therefore suitable to say that the amount of five or six gravestone were indicated for the family. In Where Are You Going Where Have You Been, Oates creates a tense mood in the reader’s heart during her short story’s last few pages by creating an intensely and rapidly growing fear within Connie. This fear that Connie has comes from the actions of Arnold Friend as well as his words of her not so new acquaintance. Arnold utilizes his speech and actions to force Connie and his pose to come with him. Arnold’s word selection also affects the story’s suspense build-up. Arnold tells Connie to the end of the plot that she’s his ‘lover’ and she doesn’t understand precisely what that entails yet, but she’s going to. It is disturbing that Arnold takes ownership of Connie and adds to the build-up of intense emotion.
Furthermore, when Arnold forces Connie to come out or he’ll break in, he convinces Connie that when Connie refuses to come in, she doesn’t ‘want to put her family into the situation.’ This can be viewed as a threat to harm her family unless she gives it to him, which would obviously increase all feelings. As the tale ends, Arnold utilizes the insecurities of Connie to coax her out of the house by telling her that she is ‘better than her family and that not one of them would go through a scenario like this for her.’ The fact that Arnold turns against her a vulnerable portion of Connie can definitely scare the viewer and cause tension to increase.
Overall, Arnold is the cause of Connie’s fears, and what plays into this fear is the actions of Arnold as well as his words. To create this mood within the reader, Oates uses Arnold as the “bad guy”. Suspense is a literary device used by writers throughout the job to maintain alive the interest of their readers. That something risky or harmful is about to occur is a sense of anticipation. Using this sort of anxiety in literature is intended to create readers more worried about the characters and form a friendly connection with them. Hence, Authors like Flannery O’Connor, Ambrose Bierce’s and Joyce Carol Oates all use elements of suspense to make their very well-known successful novels.
A New Aspect of Time in an Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge Story
In “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” Ambrose Bierce has created an awe-inspiring and wonder-filled portrait of time as a fluid motion of nature. The reader is swiftly transported from the present to the past, then forward to the present (as the protagonist perceives it) and finally into the actual present. While there are many themes which take center-stage in this composition, such as the blurring of fantasy and reality, or the idea of distorted sensory perception; the one theme which I will expound on in this essay is the element of irony. The story rings of irony in every line from the onset to the ending, and it also reeks faintly of a grotesque form of sardonic wit. This is not so surprising seeing as Bierce is still reputable for his dark and biting literary approach.
The irony upon which the entire story is founded is the concept that Peyton is never truly free from his captors and that even his best attempts at achieving freedom are not enough because he is still a condemned man. Peyton’s fantastical state of mind seems to spawn from a moment in the story when he wishes to “fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children.” (Barnett, Cain, Burto287). Immediately, his thoughts are interrupted by the exaggerated sound of his watching ticking off the few remaining minutes of his existence. He cannot even find the slightest measure of calm in these moments just to think on his estranged family. Ironically, he resolves then without truly realizing it to somehow, and some way, see his family again before he perishes, and he does indeed manage to accomplish that although only in his illusion.
The reader is faced with dramatic irony during the story’s sudden flashback when Peyton refers to himself as being a “student of hanging.” (287) This is undoubtedly ironic that a man familiar with and learned in the method of hanging would one day find himself on the wrong end of the rope. Ambrose Bierce is obviously toying with the readers’ emotions with this admission. On the one hand, the reader feels compassionately for this man doomed to die simply because his demise is happening so abruptly, but there is also an underlying notion that cannot be escaped. That perhaps this is the truest poetic justice for Peyton to meet an end which he witnessed so many men before him meet.
Another ironic moment is the passage of time between Peyton’s impromptu flashback and him falling through the bridge. The reader easily overlooks this flaw in the story right along with the numerous other details which are missed in reading this story for the first time. It is interesting and somewhat unexplainable how suddenly clear and defined Peyton’s thoughts are during those final minutes. He is obviously petrified and beside himself, and yet he has time for a brief journey backwards into the past. Bierce is in fact preparing us for what is to soon transpire. He’s showing us that the protagonist is capable of sinking into his thoughts for comfort. Peyton is a master escapist as he escapes deeper and deeper into his “safe” illusion. Ironically, Bierce writes that Peyton “swung through unthinkable arcs of oscillation, like a vast pendulum.” (287). This statement does not hold much significance upon first reading it but once the story is given a second read, it makes perfect sense that it is describing Peyton as he really is before the reader is swept away into his deluded state of consciousness.
Irony continues to set the tone for this story as Peyton is never once permitted real peace of mind. He is still running from his captors, fighting for his life, and searching for his home even in his dream state. Just when he managed to swim through the river and “come to the surface facing down the stream,” he sees “the bridge, the fort, the soldiers upon the bridge…” (287). Bierce is wielding his pen mightily, showing just how much sway he has in this story. He is in fact a dream maker and he is making Peyton’s dream state into a hellish nightmare racked with weird twists and bitter turns, always for the worst.
The conclusion is without a doubt the most brutal, torturous, and ironic scene in all of the story with the rung being pulled so fast from beneath Peyton’s feet, and the reader being let down so soon and so very hard. Just when Peyton (and the unknowing reader) believes he has finally made it safely home and sees his wife, there is a powerful flash of light and “then all is darkness and silence.” (287). In the following line, the reader is reunited with the real Peyton Farquhar, his body hanging lifeless beneath the bridge. There is nothing to be said at that moment. Ironically, Bierce has successfully duped the reader in joining into Peyton’s false comfort world, and even cheering him through this distorted sensory state.
Ambrose Bierce managed to create a rather memorable story with an equally remarkable and stunning conclusion. The plot thickens with every horrific and clever line penned by him. It is so fascinating to see the world through the eyes of a condemned man seeking freedom and a second chance of life. Every moment in this story is so very vivid and graphic as if the reader,is actually experiencing the moment right along with the protagonist. Bierce is amazing at presenting irony in such a terrific and shocking light. The greatest irony is perhaps that the reader is also quickly and deeply captivated by this tale of a tale they never met and feels so deeply for him still.
Use of Imagery in an Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
The short story, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” by Ambrose Bierce is a clear example of suspenseful writing. Bierce’s use of imagery such as how the Hangman plans to escape; explicit detail, such as how the rope snaps and the Hangman evades death; and Figurative language, such as how the Hangman finally dies, intensifies the work and leaves the reader filled with anticipation. Though all of those elements effect how the story flows, it mostly influences how the reader sees the story. The Author’s use of Imagery, explicit detail, and figurative language in the short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” leaves the reader with a vivid sense of realism and anticipation.
While reading “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” the reader experiences many different emotions (as it should be with any well written piece of literature), but the most prominent emotion is suspense. The author uses imagery most often, but not obsessively. For example, “He unclosed his eyes and saw again the water below him. ‘If I could free my hands,’ he thought. ‘I might throw off the noose and spring into the stream. By diving I could evade the bullets and, swimming vigorously, reach the bank, take to the woods, and get away home” (400). Though the example above is short, it is blatantly obvious that the use of imagery magnifies and heightens the reader’s suspense level. However, Imagery is not the only literary tool that aids to the suspensefulness of Bierce’s writing.
Details are often what make a story stronger or weaker and “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” is no exception to that statement, in fact it rings true to it. Often time’s authors struggle with too much implicit detail or too much explicit detail, but Bierce knew when enough was enough and it really shows in his story. The author’s use of details can be seen in the following excerpt: “As Peyton Farquhar fell straight downward through the bridge, he lost consciousness and was as one already dead . . . the pain of a sharp pressure upon his throat, followed by a sense of suffocation. Keen Poignant agonies seemed to shoot from his neck downward through every fiber of his body and limbs” (401). Bierce’s use of explicit detail creates a grotesque scenario and heightens the realistic qualities of the story, especially since its used alongside imagery and figurative language.
In every piece of literature, ever written, there is some type of figurative language used. Bierce, in this short story, tends to favor similes. A simile is a comparison using like or as, and when used in the context of this story heighten many different emotions. As can be seen here: “As he is about to clasp her, he feels a stunning blow upon the back of the neck; a blinding white light blazes all about him, with a sound like the shock of a cannon . . . Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge” (405). The simile above signified Peyton’s neck finally breaking and the end of his oxygen deprived dream, thus the conclusion and end of suspense. Bierce, though frustrating, kept the reader on the edge of his/her seat until the very end.
In conclusion, Ambrose Bierce’s enticingly dark story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” not only leaves the reader on the edge of their seat, it allows the reader to read a truly amazing piece of literature. Bierce’s use of imagery, explicit detail, and foreshadowing heightens the feelings of both his characters and his readers, and also creates a very realistic story. The death of Peyton Farquhar, though noble, was unexpected and possibly the most triumphant moment in the short story. Suspense is a difficult emotion to evoke in a piece of literature, but Bierce was obviously no novice to keeping a reader on edge.
Vivid Imagery in an Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce and Regret by Kate Chopin
As defined by A Handbook of Literature, “a short story is a relatively brief fictional narrative in prose” (480). Every short story is different and unique. Evaluating them is a great way to find the differences. Even though they are all different, they are also very alike in the way which they unfold. Each and every short story starts with an introduction, which introduces the main characters and the settings. The introduction then leads to the rising action which is when the conflict starts to create tension. After the rising action always comes the climax which is when highest point of tension, is reached. Things then begin to unravel in the denouement only to end with the resolution which ties off all the loose ends. The two stories that I chose to evaluate are “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce and “Regret” by Kate Chopin. These two stories gripped my attention with their vivid imagery and their interesting conflicts. I chose to focus on these two criteria while evaluating the stories.
A Handbook of Literature defines a conflict as “the struggle that grows out of two opposing forces” (Harmon and Holman 115). Conflict is what makes a story so fascinating. Without conflict, there is no point in reading the story. Something which catches my attention is worth reading rather than something that puts me to sleep during the first paragraph. A story which keeps you at the edge of your seat wanting to know more and more is a good story in my terms. In the short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”, the conflict is man vs. man. At the very beginning of the first paragraph, Ambrose Bierce writes, “A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man’s hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck. It was attached to a stout cross-timber above his head and the slack fell to the level of his knees” (Bierce 1). The conflict is recognized very early on in the story as a man who is about to be hanged. After reading more of the story, we learn why he is to be hanged and the struggles in which he is coping with during this time. The first thing anyone would want to find out is why the character was about to be hanged. This short story keeps the interests of its audience by keeping them guessing. With the conflict being at the beginning, it also gives the reader a reason to keep reading. I was curious if he really did break free or if he was really just imagining.
In the short story “Regret”, the conflict is not introduced in the beginning of the first paragraph, instead we learn more about the main character before the conflict presents itself. About three paragraphs into the story, the conflict is made known. The main character, Mamzelle Aurlie, is a lonely woman who has never been loved or married. Her neighbor shows up one day on her front porch with all four of her children. Mamzelle Aurlie is practically forced to watch her neighbor’s children, since the childrens father was away in Texas and their mother had to visit her sick mother. Mamzelle Aurlie had no idea what to do or how to take care of these kids. The narrator states, “it took her some days to become accustomed to the laughing, the crying, the chattering that echoed through the house and around it all day long” (Chopin 3). This conflict is man vs. self. Mamzelle Aurlie did not have any clue what she was doing when her neighbor dropped her children off. This story, like the last, keeps your interests by keeping you guessing. I wanted to continue to read to find out how she dealt with this situation.
Imagery makes the reader feel like they are a part of the story. Providing vivid details of a person or an object makes for a better story. Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of Literature describes imagery as “representation of objects, feelings, or ideas, either literally or through the use of figurative language” (581). When I read a story, I look for these types of details. The imagery makes the story more interesting and worth reading. In “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”, imagery is used all the way throughout, starting from the beginning paragraph all the way to the last sentence. For example, Ambrose Bierce writes, “his features were good—a straight nose, firm mouth, broad forehead, from which his long, dark hair was combed straight back, falling behind his ears to the collar of his well-fitting frock coat” (Bierce 1). This piece of information describes to the readers detailed features of the man. A couple of sentences later, the author goes into even more details of the man’s appearance. Ambrose Bierce states, “he wore a mustache and pointed beard, but no whiskers; his eyes were large and dark gray, and had a kindly expression which one would hardly have expected in one whose neck was in the hemp” (Bierce 1). Both of the sentences above give us a great mental image of the way this man looked. It specifically describes his features and paints a picture in our mind. The imagery in “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” makes for a better and more interesting story.
The imagery in the short story “Regret” is not as descriptive as “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” The author describes the main character, but not enough to where the reader can paint an image in their head. Kate Chopin writes “Mamzelle Aurlie possessed a good strong figure, ruddy cheeks, hair that was changing from brown to gray, and a determined eye” (Chopin 1). This sentence gives us some sort of image, but does not allow us to fully understand what she looks like. Kate Chopin continues by saying “she wore a man’s hat about the farm, and an old blue army overcoat when it was cold, and sometimes top-boots” (Chopin 1). The reader is given a bit more information on how Mamzelle Aurlie dressed, but no more on the way she looked. I prefer more descriptive details so that I can have a better idea of how Mamzelle Aurlie looked. The imagery in this short story is another good example, however, it is not as specific as “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” When reading a story, I like to be able to picture everything that is going on. If not enough details are given, the reader may have a more difficult time visualizing the story.
“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”, is my favorite of the two short stories. The conflict in this story not only captured my attention, but kept my interest the whole way through. The imagery that was used in this story gave a clear image of how the main character looked and also portrayed the setting rather well. Both stories contained a conflict and imagery, however the story “Regret” lacked on details when describing the main character. The conflict in “Regret”, was interesting, but did not spark my interest as much as “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” The conflict was not as big or as exciting. Both stories succeeded in meeting my two criteria’s. However, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” was exactly what I look for in a story.
Each and every one of us have different opinions about everything. When it comes to short stories, we have all have different things that we look for. Some people would rather focus on something else besides conflict and imagery. After tearing apart these stories, and looking at them piece by piece, I got to see all the stories had to offer. Searching these short stories made it easy to detect the conflicts and the imagery that they had to offer. By paying close attention to details, I was able to chose which story met my personal criteria the best.