Occurance at Owl Creek Essay

This essay has a total of 1082 words and 5 pages.

Occurance at Owl Creek




What Makes Ambrose Bierce a Realist Author
"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" can be considered a work of realism for three reasons.
The first is Bierce's utilization of his own military background giving this story a
sense of authenticity. Bierce also conveys his cynicism after leading the reader to
believe otherwise. Finally, this story provides social critique of the south during the
Civil War.

Bierce goes to great lengths to describe the opening sequence in terms of its military
arrangement. He provides vivid images of troop formations and soldier stances like "a
single company of infantry in line, at 'parade rest' the butts of the rifles on the
ground, the barrels inclining backward against the right shoulder, the hands crossed upon
the stock." (Bierce 269). He also takes the time to describe exactly how fortified the
Owl Creek Bridge is. He shows his military experience by describing a road that stretches
out of site and assuming that "Doubtless there was an outpost farther along." (Bierce
269). The procedures of a military execution were explained thoroughly including the code
of conduct: "In the code of military etiquette silence and fixity are forms of deference."
(Bierce 269).

Bierce earned the nickname "Bitter Bierce" (Bierce 268) early in his life for his
cynicism. This is not evident in this story until the end. The third and final part
begins with a sequence of miraculous occurrences allowing Peyton Farquhar to escape from
his hanging. The description of these events leads the reader to believe that Bierce is a
Romantic author rather than a realist. The rope breaks dropping him into the creek. He
then uses his "superhuman strength" (Bierce 272) to remove the rope from around his neck.
Peyton is then blessed with augmented senses seeing the veins on leaves in the forest and
hearing gnats and dragonfly wings in the distance. He then sees the eye of a marksmen on
the bridge through the scope on the rifle. Amazingly, this marksman misses what should be
an easy target and allows Farquhar to swim farther downstream. Peyton then manages to
avoid a barrage of bullets, cannon fire, and finally grapeshot and is only wounded by one
bullet. In contrast to the first part, the scenery is now described as a dream world of
"strange roseate light", trees that look like "giant garden plants", and "great golden
stars" (Bierce 274). He describes the arrangement of the trees as having "definite order"
and the stars are in order of "secret and malign significance" (Bierce 274). This
suggests what Peyton is seeing is contrived rather than real. The author also gives more
direct hints to what happens in actuality. In the first part Farquhar imagines how he
would escape while he is waiting to be hung which coincidentally is how it happens. In
the end, his final thought is of his wife greeting him at the front gate. This is
revealed initially in the first part: "He closed his eyes in order to fix his last
thoughts upon his wife and children." (Bierce 270). Another indication is the reference
to the single bullet to hit him in the water. The wound is to his neck and described as
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