September 13, 2004

An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge

In rereading the short story, "An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge," I couldn't help but think of that poor man's dying thoughts. Of his glorious attempt, in his mind, to escape, to see his wife and family. I wish the soldiers could have seen his last thoughts as we have seen. I wonder if they would have felt guilty, or even cared? I wonder what the sergeant was thinking as he "stepped aside" and let the man fall to his death?
Then I think of everyone that dies each day, what are their last thoughts? What will mine be?
Was this the author's intention? Did he intend for us to think not only of Peyton Farquhar's last thoughts, but of our own?

I would like to discuss this short story further....

After reading the story for the third time, I highlighted words and phrases that seemed to be "fishy." These occurences seemed too unrealistic, too dreamlike to occur. Maybe Bierce used these outlandish occurences to foreshadow the man's death at the end of the story.
As early as the second paragraph, the narrator tells us that "Death is a dignitary who when he comes announced is to be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familar with him." After reading this sentence a few times, I almost feel as if he gave away the ending right there, in the next to the last sentence of the second paragraph. "Those most familar with him," are the soldiers, I am assuming, because they have seen death so many times. They stand at attention in uniform, weapons ready, and eyes cold, therefore giving respect to Death.
When the rope breaks and Farquhar falls into the water, his "physical senses were... preternaturally keen and alert....they made record of things never before perceived." He sees every leaf of every tree, every blade of grass, and every drop of dew. He hears fish swim through the stream and the movement of the legs of a water spider.
Later, we are told that "the man in the water saw the eye of the man on the bridge gazing into his own through the sights of the rifle. He observed that it was a gray eye..." But at the beginning of the story, we are told that the "swift water [is] twenty feet" below the bridge. How could he see the man's eye from at least twenty feet away?
After he dodges bullets and cannons, he becomes trapped in a whirlpool, or "vortex" and "in few moments he was flung upon the gravel at the foot of the left bank of the stream." He begins the journey home, but he "had not known that he lived in so wild a region." Everything he sees is new and spectacular now. "Overhead... shone great golden stars looking unfamilar and grouped in strange constellations."
Finally, he arrives home and his wife rushes to greet him at the gate, "in a flutter of female garmets" and then everything turns to white and the reader realizes the Peyton Farquar is dead. I think many of us knew he was dead all along, we were just "rooting" him on, hoping that for once, the "bad guy" overcomes and returns home safely, and no one ever comes looking for him.

Posted by Sarah Elwood at September 13, 2004 11:26 AM

I couldn't help thinking of what my own last thoughts are going to be when I read this. Bierce wants the reader to react to his writing, hence the subjects:death, love, war--universals.

Posted by: Amanda at September 15, 2004 10:14 AM


I'm not sure of what the author's intentions were when he decided to kill off the main character at the end. He was so close of coming home safe and sound, but didn't make it. If this story had a different ending, more people would have appreciated it more.


Posted by: Nabila Uddin at October 5, 2004 12:56 PM

I disagree, Nabila. By "different ending" I am assuming you mean a "happy one", and I think this piece's appeal is in the ending. The story would not have had the effect that it does without the rather tragic ending, and I think that is what Bierce wanted the reader to do--be sucked in and then astounded.

I don't think everyone likes a happy ending either. I mean, look at _Romeo and Juliet_, _Antigone_ and _A Walk to Remember_, they are works, both classical and contemporary that are "appreciated" and are tragic, at least by my standards.

Posted by: Amanda at October 9, 2004 02:14 PM

I missed some commas in there, please forgive. :-D

Posted by: Amanda at October 9, 2004 02:18 PM

I agree with Amanda and strongly disagree with Nabila. What she wrote about how this could have been an effective story did not cross my mind even once. Actually I was immediately awed by the story and its intense ending. I also loved the foreshadowing that Bierce utilized. This is definitely one of the coolest short stories I've ever read. As a matter of fact, I found it so cool that I decided to use it in speech team (I do Prose).

Posted by: yvonne Valencia at October 30, 2004 01:29 PM
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