Ambrose Bierce uses realism to portray the dark reality of the Civil War in his 1890 short story, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. However, Bierce does not portray the brutality of the Confederates, regarded as the enemies of history. Instead, Bierce makes us sympathize with a Southern slave owner, Peter Farquhar, turning our pre-conceived notions of a just war on its head. Using the positive portrayals of the main characters family, the reader begins to feel for the Southern plantation owner. Even with Farquhar’s support for the Confederacy and slavery, which Bierce does not heavily address, the reader begins to root for him to escape his demise. Through Bierce’s negative representation of the Union, Farquhar himself, and the use of family emphasizes the theme of realism throughout An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.
Bierce seems to think that war is a brutal cause with no real reward. “Many veterans like Bierce wondered why they had fought at all (Hess).” Using his own experience in the Civil War, he portrays war as unnecessary violence through his story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.The story starts out by showing Peyton Farquhar standing on Owl Creek Bridge and he has a noose around his neck. He is about to be executed for burning down the bridge, which is a crucial supply line for the Union. With this beginning alone, we can see the brutal side of war. A man, who is not dressed like a soldier, but a civilian, is about to be executed. There is no evidence that a trial has occurred that has led to this situation. Instead, it seems like a Union army general has condemned him for death. This thought alone can make one shudder. Not only did he not have a fair trial, Farquhar didn’t have a trial at all. Martial Law, in which the military is in control of the laws and the function of areas such as jail and sentencing, has been thrown upon Farquhar. This is not only prevalent in the Civil War, but in wars thought history….