Time goes by so slowly
Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge.
--Roberts pg 322
They always say that your whole life passes before you before you die. I think that's the main reason the end of this story caught me by surprise. Looking back, the author did provide a little bit of foreshadowing when he put that Farquhar wanted nothing more but to see his wife and children one last time before his death. Nevertheless, the author did an excellent job of keeping the reader on their toes with this surprise ending.
Although I'll admit that this final sentence of the short story did catch me by surprise, I have to admit that when section III began, I did wonder if he was imagining his escape. However, once I began to read this part of the story, it was very difficult for me to believe that it was not real. The way the author, Ambrose Bierce, stretches out the entire experience made it seem more real. Although I have never been in a serious near-death experience, I was hit by a car walking to school during my junior year of high school, and I have to admit that time did seem to operate significantly slower than it usually does for me. I think that's mostly the reason I believed that Farquhar really did escape. The amount of detail within the section of the story astounded me. And the author really did an excellent job of slowing down the action for the reader.
Aside from this aspect of the short story, I also appreciate the way the author chose to write the story--jumping from present to past and then back to present again. This gave readers a chance to empathize with Farquhar before judging him. By not giving the reader any sort of dramatic irony, the author allowed the readers to really remain open to possibilities, and this greatly strengthened the piece as a whole.