A Southern Hero Essay, Research Paper
A Southern Hero
As ?An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge? unfolds, the main character, Peyton Farquhar is wearing a rope around his neck, in preparation for his hanging. It is implied later in the story that he is being executed for the burning of the Owl Creek Bridge, where Union soldiers have set up a blockade. Farquhar is a gentleman planter and supporter of the southern secession living in Alabama during the Civil War. Ambrose Bierce, the author, portrays Farquhar as someone with courage, integrity and the ability to overcome any physical hardship.
Farquhar has the courage to contemplate burning the Owl Creek Bridge because there is no service ?too humble for him to perform in aid of the South, no adventure too perilous for him to undertake? (82). According to a soldier who stops by the Farquhar residence, the Union commandant ?issued an order?, ?declaring that any civilian caught interfering with the railroad, it?s bridges, tunnels or trains, will be summarily hanged? (83). He knows that should he be captured, he will be put to death by hanging. The thought of Farquhar believing that he can get away with destroying the bridge, right under the noses of the Union troops takes sheer guts.
The integrity Farquhar demonstrates while the noose is around his neck is quite amazing. He sees death as a ?dignitary who, when he comes announced, is to be received with formal manifestations of respect? (81). Farquhar is not upset by death, or afraid to die. He simply embraces the very thought of death and holds it close to him as a military person would, for in ?the code of military etiquette silence and fixity are forms of deference? (81). Instead of attempting to escape his execution, Farquhar unselfishly spends the last few minutes of his life thinking of his young children and his wife. One might surmise he preferred to die with honor rather than dishonor.
When Farquhar imagines that the rope has broken during his execution, he demonstrates his ability to overcome physical hardships. He doesn?t yield when the Union sharp shooters are firing at him in the swirling waters. Farquhar is under the deep water and instead of accepting death by drowning, he pushes away the water ?vigorously with quick, downward strokes, forcing him to the surface? (84). While he is walking on the deserted road back to his house, he is not slowed by his weakened physical state. His neck was ?horribly swollen?, ?his eyes felt congested? and his ?tongue was swollen with thirst? (86). Rather than to think of the soldiers that are sure to be hunting him down, Farquhar thinks of his wife and children. He?s not so certain of the outcome of the attempted escape, but nonetheless, he overcomes his discomfort and strives for life, instead of death.
Peyton Farquhar is an extraordinary person who represents three very distinguished qualities. Demonstrations of Farquhar?s courage against the Union troops, his integrity when facing death and his ability to overcome any physical hardship, make him stand out as a three dimensional character. Farquhar comes off the written page as a hero to the southern cause. Someone willing to endure anything for what he believes in. Above all, he pursues life without worrying about the consequences; something that most people cannot.
Bierce, Ambrose. ?An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.?_The Norton Introduction to Literature_. 7th Shorter Edition. Jerome Beaty and J. Paul Hunter. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998. 80-87.