Essay, Research Paper
Ambrose Bierce ?The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge? is an incredible powerful and suspense story; told of all fears of a young father coming to light as his life swings in and out of reality. Ambrose Bierce writes this story during the turn of the nineteenth to twentieth century. During this time period the two writing styles of romanticism, and realism were coming together. This melding of styles was a result of the romantic period of writing and art coming to an end, just at realism was beginning to gain popularity. ?The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge? is a perfect example of this transition of styles as it combines elements of both romanticism and realism to create a story that can be far-fetched while still believable at times. The author has plotted the story in a very gratifying manner.
The setting plays a big part because it is dived into three different sections. Section I, actually tells the reader about when Peyton was about to be hanged and leads us from the beginning of the ceremony to the end where he is actually hung. It then goes on to Section II, where it tells us how he found out about Owl Creek Bridge, and what could happen if a civilian interfered with anything dealing with the bridge. Last of all Section III, tells the reader about Peyton?s hallucination of escaping the hanging. When reading the story for the second time, it seems to be more interesting because you know the plot. The plot puts all the pieces of the puzzle together that were left apart during the first reading. For example, you know that Peyton Farquhar is the man that is being hanged without having to read almost to the end of the story and also why the hanging is taking place.
While the story is based on a realistic plot, and even set up as a piece of historical fiction, it soon takes a drastic turn towards romanticism. As a captured Southern loyalist, the character is bound by the neck and to be hung, when his life, all that is to be, flashes before him. There are some instances of foreshadowing in the plot, because at the end of Section I, Peyton imagines his whole escape. He talks about how he dives into the stream with his hands free, dodges bullets, and escapes through the woods to his home where his wife and kids are waiting for him.
When Peyton is hung off the bridge just as he is dropping to his death, the rope breaks letting him drop into the water and begin to escape by swimming for his life. This action in itself also illustrates classic romanticism, as it is highly unrealistic that Peyton would have survived the impact of the rope to his neck as he dropped off the bridge. In a split second he pictures his break from the noose, his race to freedom, and his reunion with his beloved family. Life, to this man, is nothing but a dream that he holds of his freedom.
This goes on further as he survives his plunge into the water, releases him of the ropes that bound him, and then manages to swim away to safety while being shot at by a troop of soldiers. Finally Peyton escapes the treacheries of the running river, and the chasing soldiers in an idealized, and abstract fashion (true to the characteristics of romanticism). He then runs through the forest in a desperate hope to keep away from the soldiers. After running quite a distance Peyton makes it to a farm, as he gets closer to the actual house he realizes it is his own, and he even sees his wife coming to greet him.
The narrator defines each character in his/her own way. Peyton is revealed in the plot as just being a civilian that was going to be hanged. The narrator does a good job of telling us his thoughts and feelings, and also by giving us a good image, as to what he looks like. However, it is not until the beginning of Section II, which we find out the character that was being described, is actually Peyton.
In what looks to be a very emotional (not to mention unrealistic) ending Peyton runs to fall into his wife?s outreached arms. However at this point realism kicks in as Peyton is snapped back into reality and she quickly disappears. He then drops the last few feet to his death, being hung off the Owl Creek Bridge. This very realistic ending shows the story in the end to be true, and that the events of Peyton escaping all took place in his mind. When thinking of the point of view of the story, it seems that the mind is a very powerful and controlling thing.
It can make things looks real, when they are nothing more than a fiction. This view really helps shape the story because as a reader you tend to believe that Peyton?s escape was really happening, when in reality it never occurred at all. This overall view of the story shows it to be quite realistic, while most of it was merely Peyton?s dream shortly before he died. But in the end ?The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge? proved to incorporate elements of realism, as Peyton’s death could have (and probably would have) happened.