Perceptions Essay

This essay has a total of 1299 words and 6 pages.


Perceptions





Perceptions
In "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" and "The Story of an Hour," the authors use
similar techniques to create different tones, which in turn illicit very distinct
reactions from the reader. Both use a third person narrator with a limited omniscient
point of view to tell of a brief, yet significant period of time. In "An Occurrence at
Owl Creek Bridge," Bierce uses this method to create an analytical tone to tell the story
of Farquhar's experience just before death. In "The Story of an Hour," Chopin uses this
method to create an involved, sympathetic tone to relay the story of Mrs. Mallard's
experience just before death. These stories can be compared on the basis of their similar
points of view and conclusions as well as their different tones.

In "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," Ambrose Bierce recreates a few brief seconds of
time for a man being executed whose cognition of these seconds is perceived as the better
part of a full day. "All that day he traveled…" (paragraph 33). "In "The Story of an
Hour," Kate Chopin relates a meaningful, yet unusual hour of time as the last one lived
for a woman who has been given the news of her husband's death in a "railroad disaster"
(paragraph 2). "She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a
paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild
abandonment…" (paragraph 3). Both stories are centered on the powerful emotions that
occur within the minds of the characters as they live out the last moments of their lives.
The narrators reveal the most intimate thoughts of each character.

In "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, " Bierce focuses on detail and the dramatic
revelation of Farquhar's dying thoughts as he desperately tries to escape the hangmen.
This creates a suspenseful journey that seems to see him freed from his noose and carried
almost home to the loving arms of his wife. "As these thoughts, which have here to be set
down in words, were flashed into the doomed man's brain rather than evolved from it…"
(paragraph 7). This period of time in which we follow along in our minds seems to last
through the day. In the end we find that the time was only in Farquhar's head and was
really only the last few seconds of his life as he saw it before the rope broke his neck.
However, the hanging is not the most significant part of the story because Bierce's third
person narrator remains focused on the details of the perceived passing of the time rather
than the action. Although the hanging is an action necessary to Farquhar's experience, it
remains in the shadows of the story, as we believe he escapes death and are drawn into his
head to struggle with him towards home and freedom. This point of view entices the reader
more deeply into the episode than would a less knowing point of view.

Bierce plays a mind game with the reader that explores an impossible reality. Although it
is not conceivable to be inside someone's head to experience his or her thoughts, Bierce's
narrator does a commendable job of creating a fictional, yet believable example of this
impossibility. Bierce's method allows the reader to become deeply intimate with the
details of the profound occurrence of Farquhar's death. He creates a plethora of explicit
suffering which contributes to the analytical tone. The reader is almost able to feel his
pain as he is tortured by the hanging process. "His neck ached horribly; his brain was on
fire; his heart…gave a great leap, trying to force itself out at his mouth" (paragraph
19). This process of the systematic progression of events from the perceived moment of
hanging to the perceived moment of almost achieving freedom creates a fantastic narrative.

In "The Story of an Hour," Chopin also focuses on the experiences going on inside the
character's head, but in realistically measured time. An hour passes while Mrs. Mallard
believes she has lost her husband and gained her freedom. The joy she feels as a result
of his death is compelling, and she feels "free, free, free" (paragraph 11). Again, a
third person narrator is responsible for relaying the story, but in this story Chopin
creates a more sympathetic and involved situation between the reader and Mrs. Mallard than
Bierce does in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." The narrator successfully creates a
tone of sympathy for her because Mrs. Mallard's struggle is an internal one between love
and freedom. "What could love…count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion
which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being" (paragraph 15). The
narrator's point of view results in a more meaningful and compassionate connection for the
reader with Mrs. Mallard rather than a penetrating analysis of her feelings. The details
Continues for 3 more pages >>




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