Out of all the stories I have read in class so far, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce, has touched me most. When I first began reading the story I felt as though I was not interested, because my assumptions of what the story was going to be about were completely different than the stories actual content. As I set aside my judgment and let myself try to enjoy the story, I found myself anxiously reading to the bitter end. This story was not only interesting and unique, but also had an added twist at the end, which surprised most readers.
Depending on how observant the reader is with picking up on foreshadowing and symbolic meaning, one may realize before the final sentences that Peyton Farquar was not actually escaping home but in fact hallucinating while desperately trying to escape the hangmen. Ambrose Bierce chose to write this story in third person limited omniscient point of view to help the reader understand the story from the main character's mind, Peyton Farquar. During the story you only see what happens through Peyton's eyes. Therefore, you do not realize that most of the narrative reflects Peyton's imagination. Choosing this type of view also lets the author focus more on the emotions and thoughts of the main character. The author does not let the reader see into the eyes of the men hanging him, but after reading the story one will understand that their point of view was not needed and would have actually taken away from the story if done so.
His creative way of inventing this story would not have affected me and many other readers if written any other way. Bierce broke this story down into three parts. The first part of the narrative creates an atmosphere with the setting at Owl Creek Bridge. Great detail is told here as to who is present at the scene, what is happening, what the scene looks like, etc. But the reader only receives ideas and thoughts from one person, Peyton Farquar. The first part as like the other two parts of this story is written very systematically and clear.
Even with such a structured set up, the author still manages to put great anticipation and fearsome emotion into the near end of the first part of this story. At this point the author makes the reader think Peyton is devising a way to set his hands free from the rope thereby beginning his journey to escape home. The second part of the story shifts as the author sets the tone with background knowledge on Peyton Farquar and his family. This part of the story also informs the reader of why he is hung in the first place. While this section is not necessarily a crucial part of the story, it does help build Peyton's character as well as the overall character of the story. The third part of this story focuses attention back to the scene at the bridge, where the authors deceiving words make the reader think Peyton has escaped from the rope and now desperately fights his way home to the loving arms of his wife again.
As I said before this part of the story continues on a systematic path, describing every little detail occurring from Peyton's point of view up until the last seconds before his death. The main theme of this story, dying, opened my eyes to a view I had never thought about before. The author presents an in-depth narrative into the mind and thoughts of someone who is in the process of his last minutes of life. This could also be characterized by going through some of the five stages of dying: Denial, Anger, Depression, and Acceptance. An example of Denial would be when Peyton says, '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.
My home, thank God, is as yet outside their lines; my wife and little ones are still beyond the invader's farthest advance. ' Peyton shows signs of denial in this segment by presenting the possibility of escaping which is highly improbable at this point. An example of anger would be when the author says, "To die of hanging at the bottom of a river! -- the idea seemed to him ludicrous". 'To be hanged and drowned,' he thought, 'that is not so bad; but I do not wish to be shot. No; I will not be shot; that is not fair.
' As Peyton begins hallucinating, he expresses anger that he might actually be shot now that he has escaped the hanging. An instance of depression strikes when the author says, "By nightfall he was fatigued, footsore, famished. His neck was in pain and lifting his hand to it found it horribly swollen". He is exhausted and disoriented. Even the stars look different and "He was sure they were arranged in some order which had a secret and malign significance".
This shows clear signs of his struggle coming to an end, leading him into a depression that rationalizes his impossible survival. Falling into acceptance occurs when he feels as if he had. ".. recovered from a delirium... ". and he sees his home", ... all bright and beautiful"At the bottom of the steps she stands waiting, with a smile of ineffable joy, an attitude of matchless grace and dignity. Ah, how beautiful she is! He springs forward with extended arms".
This last full paragraph clearly shows signs of Peyton's acceptance of what is happening, almost as if he has given up and freed himself from the struggle as he sees the light. Out of all the stories I have read so far in class, I found this story the most interesting and realistic piece. It never occurred to me that thoughts such as those mentioned in the story could actually be going through a die ing man's mind. In fact, I show even more ignorance in that I have never thought about what is it truly like to experience a process of expected death. This kind of tragedy once happened on a day-to-day basis. Imagine all the other elaborate emotions going through the minds of others die ing.
Bierce did a great job in putting true emotion into this story. I along with most of my class members agreed that we had no idea Peyton's escape home did not occur at all until the final words of this story. For an author to create something so realistically disguised until the bitter end is truly an amazing accomplishment.