An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce : an Undergraduate Literary Analysis

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Brian Dillon
Essay I pt. 2 : An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce 02/13/13
If one were to pick an Ambrose Bierce piece at random, there is a very good chance that you would find yourself reading a somewhat dark and somber story involving anything from the horrors of war, descriptive passages of unsettling and unnerving events, and his signature theme: a vivid and bleak account of someone’s death or execution. How can you really blame him either? Given his history of close to home deaths in the family among many other life altering events and ailments, (Bierce divorced his wife in 1904 after discovering her potential infidelity, lost both his sons at young age, battled with depression throughout his life, suffered from debilitating asthma throughout most of his adult life and to top it all off, suffered from complications from a head wound inflicted during his service to the Union in Indiana’s 9th Infantry at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain) one might begin to understand why Bierce believed the cards were stacked against him and how his negativity and personal bitterness spilled over into his work. With a life mantra like, “Nothing Matters” you can see how it didn’t take long for a chipper nickname like “Bitter Bierce” to be bestowed upon him. Bierce’s work An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge presents a pessimistic view of the human mind, seen through main character, Peyton Farquhar’s, bleak final moments before being executed by hanging atop the Owl Creek Bridge combined with this false sense of hope given to the reader that ultimately proves useless.

Just as Farquhar finds himself with his hands bound behind his back and a noose dangling from his neck atop an 19th century wooden bridge there really seems as if there is no possible way this man can get himself out of this final conundrum. It is here that the reader first sees Bierce attempting to implicate a pessimistic view of Farquhar’s mind by insinuating there is no hope for him and that...
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