Realism and Prisoners of War in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"

Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” demonstrates realism for prisoners of war. The story takes place during the American Civil War. The main character is Peyton Farquhar, a farmer and family man in his 30’s. Farquhar lives’ in northern Alabama, he is also a slave owner devoted to the southern cause.

In the first section of ” An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” Peyton Farquhar is standing on railroad bridge surrounded by his executioners. Ambrose uses great detail to explain the preparations the soldiers were making to hang Farquhar.

Ambrose wrote “At a signal from the former the latter would step aside, the plank would tilt and the condemned man go down between the ties”.

Ambrose Bierce continues to use imagery details to keep the readers attention. Bierce goes into the mind of Farquhar. As he stands at the end of the plank; he begins to dream of his family. This is when he begins to plan an escape.

“If I could free my hands”, he thought, “I might throw of the noose and spring into the stream”.

In Section II of the story, it flashes back to before he arrived at Owl Creek Bridge. This section explains Farquhar, came from a highly respected Alabama family. Farquhar is visited by a Federal Scout who warns him of the order, to not interfere with the railroad. To also stay away from its bridges, tunnels, or trains. If any civilian was to interfere they would be hanged. Farquhar continues to ask the Scout, if there was any force this side of the bridge.

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The Scout replies… “Only a picket post half a mile out, on the railroad, and a single sentinel at this end of the bridge”. Perhaps Farquhar thought he could get the best of the sentinel and destroy the bridge.

In Section III Bierce’s uses effective sensory imagery. He is able to allow the reader to feel as if they are Farquhar. Bierce demonstrates this during Farquhar’s escape. While he is attempting his escape, the shots of muskets and cannons fly over Farquhar’s head. This is where the reader reaches the climax of the story. Allowing the reader to believe Farquhar is going to make it home safe to his family.

Bierce goes on to the end of the short story, allowing the reader to believe Farquhar, has escaped. Farquhar reaches home, his beautiful wife in sight. As he is about to clasp her, all he can see is a blinding white light. Followed by darkness and silence. “Peyton Farquhar was dead”. He had only escaped in his mind. He died hanging beneath Owl Creek Bridge.

Ambrose Bierce’s effectively demonstrates realism through out “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”. The Setting was specific and true to what civil war times were like for American citizens in the late 1800’s. The pain and death, prisoners went through was adequately represented by Bierce’s.

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Realism and Prisoners of War in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge". (2023, May 06). Retrieved from

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