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An Occurrence at Owl Creek

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Hanging by a Thread: "An Occurrence at Owl Creek"

Ambrose Bierce was an American writer who lived from 1842-1914. Shortly after serving in the Union Army Bierce became an editor for the San Francisco newspapers. Bierce and his wife moved to London where he honed his writing style working for the London papers. His two best-known works are The Devil's Dictionary and the short story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" (389). In "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" Peyton Farquhar is a well-to-do planter during the Civil War. The story takes place in Alabama, beginning with a noose around Farquhar's neck and ending with an interesting twist. Bierce uses setting and imagery to show irony between our imagination and real life.

Bierce sets the setting of the short story telling of a man standing upon a railroad bridge, in northern Alabama, with his hands tied behind his back and a noose around his neck. Farquhar's unfortunate scenario began with him and his wife at their plantation. His fait unfolds due to a chance encounter with what he believed to be a Confederate soldier. As Bierce writes, Farquhar mentioned to the solider in passing, "suppose a man- a civilian and student of hanging - should elude

the picket post and perhaps get the better of the sentinel, what could he accomplish?" Bierce's story continues to use elements of setting to portray the full connection between Farquhar and the solider. Bierce ends the chapter by simply stating, "He was a Federal Scout" which indicated Farquhar's fate was ill turned. The captain stood holding the plank in place beneath Farquhar's feet. A piece of driftwood caught Farquhar's eye, "How slowly it appeared to move" (391). He closed his eyes and focused his last thoughts on his wife and children.

Imagery is shown by the loud percussion sound pounding in Farquhar's head like a blacksmith's hammer upon an anvil (391). The strikes appeared to slow one by one but the pitch increased. This is revealed eventually to just be his watch. As captain steps away from the plank, Farquhar falls and with a sharp pressure upon his throat, followed by a sense of suffocation (393). Then all at once, with a terrible suddenness, the light about him shot upward with the noise of a loud plash (393). Farquhar found himself on the bottom of the river struggling to free himself. With fear of drowning, he franticly fought to free his hands, and swim towards the surface. As the light on the surface became brighter and brighter Farquhar knew he was finally free and surfacing. His focus was now on the soldiers waiting above, he knew they would shoot immediately as he spotted.

As Farquhar fights the stream, dodging the bullets of the soldiers, irony is played into the story. "God help me, I cannot dodge them all" (395). Being thrown around



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