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An Occurrence at the Owl Creek Bridge
Transcript of An Occurrence at the Owl Creek Bridge
Typification of the Literary Period
The Red Bridge by Julian Weir
By Kathryn Hodskins, Emma Jackson, Emma Ritter, and Allison Rizzo
The story is set in Civil War era Alabama. The main character, Peyton Farquhar , is a Confederacy sympathizer who is sentenced to hanging at Owl Creek Bridge. His death sentence was made by an undercover Union soldier who convinced Peyton to admit that he was going to burn a Union bridge. When Peyton is hanged, the rope breaks and he falls into the water. He avoids being shot by the soldiers who hanged him and escapes into the woods, aiming to return home. He sees his wife in the distance, and as he runs to meet her, he feels a searing pain in his neck, a white light flashed, and everything goes black. The author reveals that Peyton never escaped the hanging. He imagined his escape in between the rope dropping and his neck snapping.
Adam Young has said that this story was the inspiration for the name of his electronica musical project, Owl City.
In Abrose Bierce's short story,
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
, the literary period of this time, Realism, is expressed through the use of themes and symbols.
Gray is a symbol of the loss of separation between opposing sides in the story as a manifestation of the sentiment during the Civil war
Driftwood is a symbol of the elusive freedom Peyton so earnestly seeks through his unattainable fantasy
Bridge is a symbol of the connecting link; connecting the Union and the Confederacy, and Peyton with both reality and illusion
Perceptions of Reality
The watch distinctly counts down the seconds to Peyton's hanging and symbolizes his impatience and apprehension towards death
"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."
"...a gray-clad soldier rode up to the gate and asked for a drink of water."
"The man in the water saw the eye of the man on the bridge gazing into his own through the sights of the rifle. He observed that it was a gray eye and remembered having read that gray eyes were keenest, and that all famous marksmen had them."
"A piece of dancing driftwood caught his attention and his eyes followed it down the current. How slowly it appeared to move! What a sluggish stream!"
"He closed his eyes in order to fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children...the piece of drift had distracted him."
"The Yanks are repairing the railroads...and are getting ready for another advance. They have reached the Owl Creek bridge, put it in order and built a stockade on the north bank."
"As to his head, he was conscious of nothing but a feeling of fullness - of congestion. These sensations were unaccompanied by thought. The intellectual part of his nature was already effaced; he had power only to feel, and feeling was torment."
"He had come to the surface facing down the stream; in a moment the visible world seemed to wheel slowly round, himself the pivotal point, and he saw the bridge..."
"Its recurrence was regular, but as slow as the tolling of a death knell. He awaited each stroke with impatience and - he knew not why - apprehension. The intervals of silence grew progressively longer; the delays became maddening... What he heard was the ticking of his watch."
Set up of the story
Inner realism and psychology of the character
Brutality and hostility of execution
Second half of 19th century
Spanning Civil War
"A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama"
"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, the piece of drift--all had distracted him. And now he became conscious of a new disturbance. Striking through the thought of his dear ones was a sound which he could neither ignore nor understand, a sharp, distinct, metallic percussion like the stroke of a blacksmith's hammer upon the anvil; it had the same ringing quality"
The line between reality and illusion is blurred
Farquhar creates an illusion that both he and the reader believe is a reality until the very end
The Northern scout symbolizes the combination of reality and illusion, as he uses the illusion of a Confederate to hide the reality of his true identity
The story's structure with respect to Time
Farquhar's imagined present
This reflects the fluidity and tension between conflicting notions of time. They are all present, however they fight to occur at the same moment when only one can truly take place.
In the period of time between the sergeant stepping off the plank and Farquhar falling, time changes completely. That short period of time slows to allow Farquhar to fall into his own reality, where there are no rules of time. He has an alternate perception of time in this state.
We think of time to be concrete. Could it be subjective?
His watch's ticking is very loud and present in his last moments of life, and as each tick takes longer to come, he falls into his own world of time
"Striking through the thought of his dear ones was a sound which he could neither ignore nor understand, a sharp, distinct, metallic percussion ...he wondered what it was, and whether immeasurably distant or near by- it seemed both. Its recurrence was regular, but as slow as the tolling of a death knell. He awaited each stroke with impatience and-he knew not why- apprehension. The intervals of silence grew progressively longer; the delays became maddening. With their greater infrequency the sounds increased in strength and sharpness...What he heard was the ticking of his watch."
This story's approach to death exemplifies Realism
- No glorification of death
- No implausible, supernatural events
-Exploration of death and time in a realistic fashion
"Ah, how beautiful [his wife] is! He springs forward with extended arms. 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- then all is darkness and silence! Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broke neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge."
"Peyton Farquhar was a well-to-do planter"