"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" and Other Civil War Stories

Illusion in “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” College

Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (1890) suggests a thought-provoking view on reality. Within Bierce’s work, we learn that a Confederate man, Peyton Farquhar, is to be hanged for actions against the Union Army. When Farquhar is hanged, the noose breaks and he plummets into the water below. Farquhar is able to escape from the army and return to his home. Unexpectedly, we learn this fortuitous escape was a figure of Farquhar’s imagination, and that in reality, his body hangs on the bridge (Bierce Ⅰ-Ⅲ). Bierce’s depiction of Farquhar’s illusion within his work serves to stress the cruelties of war by contrasting deception with reality. Bierce argues this point through the using of a skewed sense of time in the moments before Farquhar’s hanging, and by writing an illusory ending to his work.

In an effort to depict the suffering and anxiety which Farquhar experiences in the moments before his death, Bierce skews reality by slowing down time ultimately prolonging Farquhar’s suffering. Within Peter J. Morrone’s “The Ethics of Moral Resistance: Ambrose Bierce and General William B. Hazen”, Morrone describes Bierce’s writings as ones “that captures the most horrific and darkest faces of battle which reduce men to...

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