Occurence At Owl Creek Bridge Essay, Research Paper
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
Ambrose Bierce s short story, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, takes place during the Civil War near Corinth, Alabama. The protagonist of the story, Peyton Farquhar, is a slave owner and a politician. In the story, Peyton is portrayed as a loving family man with a strong sense of awareness and an equally strong dedication to the South, and the southern cause in the war. Though Peyton has many different characteristics, the three traits mentioned are probably his strongest and have the most to do with the outcome of the story.
Peyton is portrayed as a loving family man. Peyton has a wife and at least two children of his own. He comes from an old and highly respected Alabama family (259). His love for his family, although not directly stated, is apparent in Peyton s final thoughts before being hanged. While Peyton is only moments away from death, he closes his eyes in order to fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children (258). He yearns to return home to his family and is thankful that his wife and little ones are still beyond the invader s farthest advance (259). This statement shows how Peyton cares for his family s safety. As Peyton falls between the crossties and is having the life choked out of him, he slips into a dream in which he escapes from the hands of his enemy and returns home. His final vision in his dream, before total darkness, is when he makes it to his plantation. He walks through the gate and he sees his wife: she stands waiting, with a smile of ineffable joy, an attitude of matchless grace and dignity (263). I think Peyton s last thought of his beautiful wife shows how much he cares for and loves her.
Another one of Peyton s character traits that is shown in the story is his level of awareness of his surroundings. As he stands on the bridge and prepares for his fate, a piece of dancing driftwood caught his attention and his eyes followed it down the current (258). At a time when most men would be overcome with fear, Peyton is able to focus his attention on the wood, the stream, and peaceful thoughts. He is able to escape his fear by concentrating on what is around him. His passive thoughts are soon interrupted when he became conscious of a new disturbance. Striking through the thoughts of his dear ones was a sound which he could neither ignore or understand (259). The sound that he can hear so distinctly is the ticking of his watch, which seems to generate a noise so loud that his ears hurt. His level of awareness is further revealed during his fantasized escape; Peyton seems to know precisely what he must do to escape from his enemies and their gunfire, and exactly what his enemies are thinking. These are statements that prove Peyton is aware of his surroundings and things that are happening.
A final quality of Peyton s character, and perhaps his strongest, is his loyalty to the south and the southern cause in the war. This characteristic is clearly seen in the author s description of Peyton. Being a slave owner as well as a politician Peyton was naturally an original secessionist and ardently devoted to the southern cause (259). The author later reveals just how strong Peyton s devotion to the cause is: No service was to humble to him to perform in aid of the South (259). Unfortunately for Peyton, it is his southern loyalty that causes him to fall into the hands of the enemy as he is captured while attempting to sabotage a bridge that has fallen under the control of the North. Even though he is warned of the possible outcome due to his actions, any civilian caught interfering with the railroad, its bridges, tunnels or trains will be summarily hanged (259), Peyton still decides to risk all that is important to him in an attempt to aid in the success of the Confederate Army. Peyton is willing to die for his loyalty to the south, and what he believes in.
The author, Ambrose Bierce, had actually served in the Civil War under the Union Army, First as a drummer boy and then eventually becoming a major by the end of the war; because of this he had first hand experience in the war and the events that took place. This fact is clearly evident in the author s clear depiction of the events and of the surroundings as well as his character descriptions. Peyton Farquhar is depicted as an average southern plantation owner who truly loves his family; he has a strong sense of awareness of his surroundings and an even stronger devotion to the southern cause.
Peyton s admirable character traits eventually cost him his life. Love means to have intense affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties; enthusiasm or fondness. Peyton Farquhar was so fond of the south that he made the decision to risk his own life. I think its true that people do crazy things for love. It is a sad situation for Peyton and the price he had to pay for his devotion, but the cost of living is dying and that s one everybody pays. Sometimes what we love is also what kills us, this statement holds true for Peyton and his dedication to the Confederacy.