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

Significance of the Title in Ambrose Bierce's “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” 12th Grade

A carefully chosen title of a literary work can go a long way in selling that work to the common reader. Ambrose Bierce's well-thought-out title reveals little, yet just enough to gain our attention and to have us dwelling on the meaning of the event that takes place in the plot. The lack of information given about the “occurrence” in the story's title is the exact detail that enables the twist end to have such a profound effect, because it does not define it as explicitly bad or solely good.

The short story, divided into three chapters, begins with a depiction of the on-going situation, where “a civilian, if one might judge from his habit, which was that of a planter” is being executed by “two private soldiers of the Federal army, directed by a sergeant who in civil life may have been a deputy sheriff.” The reader immediately begins to think of the “occurrence” as something with a negative connotation, especially since the death of the main character seems inevitable. Moreover, when the protagonist simply “closed his eyes in order to fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children,” the reader cannot help but feel sorry for him as a husband and a father, who seems to have done nothing to be punished in such a horrific way. We...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 1154 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 8930 literature essays, 2367 sample college application essays, 392 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in