In the Civil War Era short narrative “ An Happening at Owl Creek Bridge ” Ambrose Bierce tells the narrative of an Alabama plantation owner, who is functioning capital penalty by hanging for trying to fire down the Owl Creek span which separates his place from the Union Army, that evades his decease by a shot of fortune and makes it place to his married woman. Throughout the narrative, Bierce gives elusive intimations taking the reader to believe that the plantation owner, Peyton Farquhar, has escaped from the hangman ‘s noose and successfully evaded an unfortunate decease. But in the last sentence of the narrative, after reasoning Farquhar ‘s exultant return place to his married woman, Bierce ends the narrative on a lurid note. “ Peyton Farquhar was dead ; his organic structure, with a broken cervix, swung gently from side to side beneath the lumbers of Owl Creek span ” ( Bierce 76 ) . Bierce tricks the reader into believing that Peyton Farquhar survives his decease sentence, when really, the surrogate world of the narrative plays out wholly through Farquhar ‘s caput in the split seconds before the Union sergeant allows Farquhar to fall to his decease. In “ An Happening at Owl Creek Bridge ” Ambrose Bierce utilizes the scene and its implicit in nuances to raise understanding for Peyton Farquhar, which adds to the narrative ‘s sarcasm and causes the reader to be fooled by its events.
The background of Peyton Farquhar does non resemble the background of a felon. Bing a “ comfortable plantation owner, of an old and extremely well-thought-of Alabama household ” ( Bierce 73 ) arguably does non raise any ruddy flags in the reader ‘s head to bespeak that this adult male is destined for the gallows. Even Bierce, himself, describes Farquhar as “ his eyesaˆ¦had a charitable look which 1 would hold barely expected in one whose cervix was in the hemp ” ( Bierce 72 ) . Bierce himself expresses disbelief at the sight of Farquhar being in the gallows. In add-on, the manner in which Farquhar looks and is dressed arguably does non stir ideas of a condemnable inside the reader ‘s caput. Farquhar is described as a adult male who takes attention of himself really good, neatly trimmed and dressed really proper. However, Bierce acknowledges the cold, rough world of Farquhar ‘s state of affairs in the last sentence in the 3rd paragraph of the narrative. “ The broad military codification makes proviso for hanging many sorts of individuals, and gentlemen are non excluded ” ( Bierce 72 ) . Before the sergeant removes the board on which he is standing, Farquhar tries to fixate his concluding ideas upon his married woman and kids. Bierce once more invokes understanding for the condemned Farquhar, this clip by conveying Farquhar ‘s personal life into the narrative and doing it his focal point in his concluding few breaths.
Bing a Confederate sympathiser, Peyton Farquhar is eager to help the Confederate Army in any manner he can. Due to unknown fortunes, Farquhar, himself, was unable to function in the Confederate Army, who best served his well-being since he was a slave proprietor. When Farquhar learns of the critical importance of the Owl Creek Bridge to the Union Army, he sees his opportunity to both stultify his enemy and protect his place and household from unwanted Yankee soldiers. While the reader may non take much understanding with Farquhar in that he is merely playing the game of war, it is the act of protecting his ain household that causes the reader to sympathise with his state of affairs. In a manner, Farquhar could hold been basically forced into seeking to fire down the span because he was merely protecting his ain household. Author Daniel E. Samide noted of Farquhar ‘s state of affairs that “ we see [ Farquhar ‘s ] hanging as harsh and unjust. Therefore, we are disposed to trust that Farquhar will get away executing and are less likely to oppugn the flight when it happens ” ( Samide ) . Samide reiterates that since the reader is so involved and sympathetic with Farquhar ‘s parlous state of affairs, that when he does get away by many bizarre and unrealistic shots of good fortune in a row, the reader is non traveling to hesitate and cry his/her disbelief at his flight, but alternatively will go captive in this surrogate world Bierce has put away. The chief ground that Farquhar is escorted to the gallows is that the Union lookout was disguised as a Confederate functionary. Farquhar gracefully took the adult male into his place and offered him a much needed drink, merely to be repaid by the Union lookout flim-flaming Farquhar into seeking to fire down Owl Creek Bridge. The reader feels understanding for Farquhar in that he was tricked by a adult male that he has shown nil but kindness. When Farquhar is able to get away his capturers, understanding for his penalty and bitterness toward the Union ground forces glorifies his success in get awaying. In the terminal, when the destiny of Farquhar is revealed, the reader is so content over Farquhar ‘s evident flight that the true destiny of Farquhar comes as a daze to the reader.
The inside informations of Farquhar ‘s flight seem to take up an full twenty-four hours to blossom. But in world, it merely occurs in the split seconds that it took for the Union sergeant to step aside from the board back uping his weight. In a manner, it is the antonym of one ‘s life flashing before one ‘s eyes. However, as Farquhar is about to be hung, he takes notice of the slow moving river over which runs Owl Creek span. “ A piece of dancing driftwood caught his attending and his eyes followed it down the current. How easy it appeared to travel! What a sulky watercourse! ” ( Bierce 72 ) . Farquhar experiences a esthesis of heightened consciousness where clip and his full milieus seem to stand still. It is a blunt contrast to the dream construction that Farquhar envisioned in mere seconds in that Bierce is playing off from the quickly paced secret plan. Bierce could be playing off from the inevitable by signaling that Farquhar ‘s decease is near. The silence in the concluding seconds before the sergeant drops the floor from under Farquhar are “ the ticking of his ticker, sounding out ‘the tolling of a decease knell. ‘ By the terminal of the narrative, Farquhar has turned into a timekeeper, but one that keeps regular clip, as he swings like a pendulum ‘gently from side to side beneath the lumbers of the Owl Creek span ‘ ” ( Korb ) .
The clip frame of the narrative and the physical milieus besides seem to add to the narrative ‘s sarcasm. Though the narrative takes topographic point in the old ages of the Civil War and Farquhar is being executed as a captive of war, “ the war itself is chiefly kept in the background. No conflicts are depicted andaˆ¦the executing seems like an overreaction. ” ( Samide ) . However, Farquhar ‘s effort to fire down Owl Creek Bridge and undermine the promotion of the Union Army falls straight into topographic point with the narrative ‘s timeframe. “ Late in the Civil War, the Union and the Confederacy struggled for control of the rail lines in northern Alabama. The Confederates were urgently seeking to destruct critical installations to decelerate the Northerners ‘ progress and interrupt [ Union General ] Sherman ‘s supply lines ” ( Owens ) . In the narrative Bierce besides makes mention to the autumn of Cornith, Mississippi, which was a cardinal triumph for the South, which gives the narrative the historical truth of a Civil War narrative. Besides, the milieus of Farquhar ‘s executing seem to connote that he is destined to get away. Farquhar is non to be hung from the standard gallows ; instead, he is to be hung from a tree subdivision hanging over the river. Besides, informants to the executing are non legion. The lone work forces present are two Union genitalias, a sergeant, and a captain. Two armed lookouts besides flank the span but Bierce notes that “ It did non look to be the responsibility of these two work forces to cognize what was happening at the centre of the span ” ( Bierce 71 ) .
The lookouts ‘ apathetic attitude towards Farquhar ‘s executing seems to bespeak that his executing is slightly lazily being carried out. This could open the door to a figure of guesss on anything from whether the rope is tied tight plenty or even if the rope could be faulty. Their indifference foreshadows a possible flight by Farquhar. Bierce singles out the sergeant as a adult male “ who in civil life may hold been a deputy sheriff ” ( Bierce 71 ) . By doing the mention to the sergeant ‘s personal life, Bierce breaks the barrier between an enlisted adult male and his civilian life which humanizes him. The executing ceases to go a formality of war, and now basically becomes slaying, doing the reader to sympathise with Farquhar ‘s destiny even more. The Civil War timeframe besides comes back into drama in that the Union Army is non transporting really accurate, efficient arms. “ On the span, the captain has merely a handgun, likely non with a long or accurate scope and the muzzle-loading rifles of the Civil War epoch hold the shootings ” ( Samide ) . Added that Farquhar is surrounded by a dense wood and vast, unsettled land and suspension over a fleetly fluxing river indicate that his mentality for flight is positive.
Bierce besides underlies how the actions of Farquhar ‘s flight could typify the actions of his hanging. “ The ‘sharp study ‘ of the fire gun, its somewhat subsequently ‘dulled boom ‘ and the apparent ‘explosion ‘ of the cannon that ‘was checking and nailing the subdivisions in the forest beyond ‘ are Farquhar ‘s dreamed alteration of the sound of his ain cervix breakage ” ( Stoicheff ) . Certain events and actions of Farquhar ‘s flight prove to be ironically symbolic of the actions of his hanging since they prove to be the sounds of his ain decease.
The name of the titular point in the narrative besides proves to be dry. The rubric of “ Owl Creek Bridge ” may non stand out as uneven, but given the fortunes that surround it, the bird of Minerva becomes a noteworthy symbol in the narrative. “ Traditionally, the bird of Minerva is a symbol of darkness and decease every bit good as wisdom. It seems an appropriate one to tie in with the scene of Farquhar ‘s hanging. Ironically, Farquhar ‘s wisdom of the nature of the war comes at the disbursal of his life ” ( Owens ) . Farquhar told the Union lookout that he considered himself “ a pupil of hanging ” ( Bierce 73 ) . This could be another mark that Farquhar is destined to get away the gallows. Yet, in the terminal, the sly statement merely contributes to the narrative ‘s sarcasm. The rubric of the span is non a random coevals or happenstance. The baleful repute of the bird of Minerva besides gives the narrative a more powerful and effectual stoping. “ The narrative merely would non be devastatingly effectual if Bierceaˆ¦had concluded it with the averment that ‘Peyton Farquhar was dead ; his organic structure, with a broken cervix swung gently from side to side beneath the lumbers of the Swan Creek span ‘ ” ( Owens ) . The repute of the bird of Minerva parallels the features of decease. Farquhar ‘s destiny may non be revealed until the terminal of the narrative, yet the truth lies in the narrative ‘s rubric.
Ambrose Bierce ‘s usage of elusive elements in the scene attention deficit disorder to the narrative ‘s overall misrepresentation and do the reader to be fooled by the narrative ‘s dry stoping. Peyton Farquhar may hold been destined for the gallows throughout the narrative ; nevertheless, Bierce uses the implicit in nuances of the narrative to pull the reader into Farquhar ‘s hallucination. Farquhar ‘s state of affairs invokes a sense of understanding from the reader, doing him/her to be so caught up in Farquhar ‘s flight, that he/she does non oppugn the unlikeliness of the events that surround Farquhar ‘s flight. Overall, the stoping sarcasm in the narrative is driven by the narrative ‘s cardinal and implicit in scene, adding to its misrepresentation.