An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge Analysis

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Jacob Wilson
14 February 2013
Professor Horan
The Bold Farquhar
Ambrose Bierce allows the reader to have a glimpse of Peyton Farquhar’s character, while he is on a bridge being prepared to hang by Union soldiers. Farquhar is portrayed as a wealthy, high-class planation owner who is receiving punishment for attempting to destroy the Owl Creek Bridge. While Farquhar does not have an actual affiliation with the Confederate Army due to his high social rank, he does have a prideful obsession with pursuing glory; he only desires the praise that comes with differentiating himself from the rest.

Peyton Farquhar is illustrated as a “well-to-do planter, of an old and highly respected Alabama family.” All of the joys associated with wealth, property, and political power are his, thus he yearns to be recognized as going the extra mile. The simple phrase “opportunity for distinction” summarizes the meaning behind his quest for even more fame. Peyton will use all resources available to accomplish this desire.

When the “larger than life” soldier, Peyton Farquhar, is sitting with his wife on his property, an exciting opportunity presents itself following a conversation with a Confederate soldier in disguise. Farquhar is tempted to pursue an honorable act, and that he does. After the soldier explains the situation, Farquhar smiles as he ponders the opportunity, “Suppose a man—a civilian and student of hanging – should elude the picket post and perhaps get the better of the sentinel . . . what could he accomplish?” The chance of delaying the northern troops is too great a temptation for Peyton to resist. The conceited politician reveals his true pursuit: glory and honor. The wealthy civilian immediately decides to burn the bridge.

Farquhar may have better protected his livelihood had he not been so enthused to destroy the bridge. As it turns out, “That opportunity, he felt, would come, as it comes to all in war time. Meanwhile he did what he could....
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