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Ambrose Bierces’ An Occurence At Owl Creek Bridge Essay

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Ambrose Bierces’ Story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”

Ambrose Bierces’ story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” tells the story of a confederate secessionist, who is being hanged by Union troops. At the time of the hanging, the soldiers drop him from the bridge. Luckily, just as he falls the rope snaps and the man dives into the “sluggish stream”. He miraculously takes off his ropes and swims away. When he reaches the bank of the creek, he runs for what seems like forever. He finally reaches home, where his family is waiting so anxiously for him. However, Bierce chooses to surround this intriguing tell with elements that carry visual, concrete, and intangible symbolism. The symbolic elements of “An Occurrence at Owl Creek
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Bierce chooses to beginning this captivating tell at a bridge. He writes, “A man stood upon a railroad bridge in Northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water…” He then choose to conclude this tell at the same bridge. He writes, “Peyton Fahrquar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek Bridge.” With so much focus on this element, the bridge, the reader must realize that it offers more than just a setting. It is the symbolic connection between reality and illusion, life and death.

First, it is the symbolic connection between reality and illusion. Throughout the course of the story, Peyton Fahrquars’ perception of reality is completely warped. He believes that he miraculously loosed his ropes, eluded the Union troop, and escaped home. This in reality is absolutely impossible. The bridge (a solid structure, with no escape route available) allows the reader to maintain a sense of reality while still being able to grasp Fahrquars’ illusion. Secondly, the bridge is the symbolic connection between life and death. Most people view death as a crossing over and beyond death is a “better life”. Now taking that ideology in context with the story, Peyton Fahrquar wanted to burn down the bridge to stop the Union Army from advancing and gaining access to the Confederate lands. The Union Army, who symbolically represents death, and the Confederate Army, who symbolically represents life,
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