Sunday, May 29, 2011

An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge

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Peyton Farquhar’s thoughts before dying and the details described in An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce are both believable and convincing. The last scene in the story is very appropriate from a psychological standpoint. Peyton is a gentleman with strong beliefs about his place in society. He is extremely devoted to the Southern cause. Peyton is a planter, slave owner, and politician, respected for his loyalty. The story begins as Farquhar is about to be hanged for trespassing on a blockaded railroad bridge. Although his crime may seem minor, there are no exceptions to the liberal military code. While Farquhar is thinking of how he might be able to escape this dangerous predicament, he suddenly falls into the water below and loses consciousness. He is dead. However, his thoughts of escaping continue in his mind He is shot at from the bridge above him but manages to rise to the surface of the water and get onto the land safely. He starts to fall asleep while walking and dreams about his beautiful wife. Just as he is about to hug her, he feels a sudden pain on the back of his neck. He has been shot. Reality resumes as his dead body swings gently beneath the Owl Creek Bridge.

Peyton’s thoughts while hanging from the Owl Creek Bridge seem quite convincing. He thinks first of his wife and children, which any loving husband and father would do while in their last moments. After thinking of his beautiful family, he decides it is too soon to give up hope, so Peyton begins thinking of how he might escape and survive. However, his survival is indeed impossible. Peyton falls into the water below and his body loses consciousness. His mind is still alive, however, and Peyton imagines how he could have escaped. In Peyton’s mind, he does break free and manages to get away from the soldiers. Although he is so close to freedom, he is too weak to move on. Thoughts of his family begin to fill his head once again. He thinks of a peaceful place where everything is perfect so that he doesn’t think of all the pain he is in. His beautiful wife with open arms is the last image in Peyton’s mind. He wants to think of this peaceful death where he sees his wife one last time, rather than his death in reality.

In Part III, many details seem believable. Peyton’s neck is described as being horribly swollen and it can be seen that he is in deep pain. A circle of black on his neck showed the bruise that the noose had caused. Other details that seem plausible include how his whole body is portrayed as being wrenched with an unbearable pain that grew with each moment. This indicated the horrible throbbing that Peyton felt as the rope got tighter and tighter around his neck. Also, Peyton’s attention to detail seemed very realistic. Peyton could hear the ripples of the water individually as they struck against his face. He also noticed the veins on each leaf of the trees and each tiny insect upon them. He noted all the prismatic colors in the dewdrops of each blade of grass. Such details make the story seem very conceivable.

The last scene that Peyton Farquhar imagines is appropriate from a psychological standpoint because it seems to fit his character very well. In Part II, Farquhar is described as a loving, family man. While hanging from the bridge, Peyton would have done everything in his might to return back home to his family alive. He loved them very much and thought it was too soon to die. So when he falls into the water and goes unconscious, he can’t help but think he has survived. He imagines he has lived just long enough to see his beautiful wife for one last time. To Peyton, this is best possible ending to his life.

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An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge is a story that focuses on the psychology of the main character, Peyton Farquhar. His detailed thoughts both before and after his death add to the development of feelings felt throughout his suffering. We are able to sympathize with Peyton and understand the pain he is going through. By taking a break in the action to introduce Peyton and his background, the reader is able to become more knowledgeable of why he imagines his death like he does. Because we are familiarized with Peyton’s state of mind before he dies, his death makes an even greater impact on us, as the reader.

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