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Published: 14-12-2019

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Close Reading Analysis of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

In the middle of the Civil War in Alabama, Peyton Farquhar, a wealthy farmer, awaits death upon Owl Creek Bridge. With a noose around his neck, Union soldiers watch as the gentleman collects his thoughts in his last moments before he is hanged for accidentally revealing his allegiance to the Confederacy to a Union spy. Even though reading this short story for the initial time, the reader is led to think that Peyton miraculously escapes and takes pleasure in reading about his long, exhausting journey home to his beautiful wife and youngsters. Only in the very last sentences is it revealed that his complete escape was a dream, taking location in the milliseconds among when he is forced off the bridge to when the noose fatally tightens about his neck. This vivid passage quoted under from Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” can be identified towards the really beginning of the brief story. In this paragraph, Peyton becomes aggravated and anxious due to an unknown, irritating sound. This passage contributes to the whole of the piece far more than any other paragraph for it establishes mood and tone, character development, and adds to the general theme of the perform.

This paragraph successfully aides in creating the tone and mood of the entire brief story through descriptive imagery and setting. But they have serious variations. For instance, “The water, touched to gold by the early sun, the brooding mist below the banks at some distance down the stream,” (1-2) paints a vivid picture in the readers mind. This is an outstanding example of the tone of the story. The “gold” (two) water alludes to a bright morning sky whilst the “early sun” (two) and “brooding mist” (2) create a sleepy, peaceful tone. Yet this gorgeous scene of a calm creek is quickly and harshly contrasted with Peyton’s feeling of anxiety and “apprehension” (9). He hears a “maddening” (ten) sound that “hurt his ear like the thrust of a knife” (11-12). This illustrative description of the “sharp, distant, metallic” (five) sound creates an uneasy mood for the reader. One begins to really feel as uncomfortable reading this section of the text as even though they were on the bridge more than Owl Creek itself. These sentences not only demonstrate a distinct contrast in, but set up the mood and tone for the rest of the quick story.

The tone of this short piece of literature notably contrasts the protagonist’s inner thoughts. Whilst the mood offers readers higher insight to how Peyton is feeling by creating them feel the same way, it is the contrast from calm, collected tone that actually brings consideration to what he is pondering. By writing in such a relaxed tone but then so powerfully depicting the agonizing sound of the Peyton’s watch, the author develops a deep, complex character in just a matter of sentences. In his physical appearance, the protagonist seems to be collected and even calm in the face of death. He is even described as a gentleman earlier in the story. This parallels the tone of the story. But as Bierce describes the sound of his ticking watch, that which sounds, “like the stroke of a blacksmith’s hammer upon the anvil” (6), the reader comes to realize that Peyton is not only terrified of death, but driven to insanity by the anxiety of waiting for it. The reader realizes that Peyton is just as human and frightened of mortality as the rest of us. This description of the protagonist’s character goes considerably deeper than just his physical look, per say, and into his psyche. This is a great moment of character development of Peyton Farquhar.

This passage completely embodies the theme of the story. That theme becoming a human’s natural tendency to reject the idea of her or his personal mortality. In this passage, the protagonist desperately tries to ignore his scenario by closing, “his eyes in order to repair his last thoughts upon his wife and kids,” (1). Even though he is moments away from being hanged to death, Peyton still refuses to face the reality of his inevitable scenario. He prefers to ignore what is happening to him and naively consider about his wife and children, oh whom he will by no means see again. He even claims that, “the fort, the soldiers, the piece of driftwood–all had distracted him,” (3). This which means that all these quite real and present objects had distracted him from his day dreaming and refusal to recognize the morbid certainty of his predicament. In this paragraph, Bierce expertly parallels Peyton’s actions to the theme of the book and to humanity as a complete.

In this essential paragraph of “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” the tone and mood are set, the protagonist becomes a multi-dimensional character, and the theme is expertly portrayed. As one particular reads about Peyton Farquhar’s story, one particular can not aid but really feel sympathy for this poor man, regardless of political views. After all, he is only a human being, just as fearful of his own death as we are of ours. This is a pivotal passage and if it have been removed, the which means of the entire story would be lost.

Parenthetical numbering refers to the following paragraph:

1 He closed his eyes in order to repair his last thoughts upon his wife and youngsters. The water,

two touched to gold by the early sun, the brooding mists under the banks at some distance

3 down the stream, the fort, the soldiers, the piece of driftwood–all had distracted him. And

4 now he became conscious of a new disturbance. Striking by means of the thought of his dear

5 ones was a sound which he could neither ignore nor understand, a sharp, distinct, metallic

6 percussion like the stroke of a blacksmith’s hammer upon the anvil it had the identical

7 ringing top quality. He wondered what it was, and no matter whether immeasurably distant or close to by–

eight it seemed each. Its reoccurrence was normal, but as slow as the tolling of a death knell.

9 He awaited every stroke with impatience and–he knew not why–apprehension. The

10 intervals of silence grew progressively longer the delays became maddening. With

11 higher infrequency the sounds elevated in strength and sharpness. They hurt his ear like

12 the thrust of a knife he feared he would shriek. What he heard was the ticking of his

13 watch. (Bierce 289)
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