An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge: A Manipulation of Time

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An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge Essay

An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge:
Present-Past-Present

Ambrose Bierce’s An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, which is a short story released in 1890, gained much popularity over the years. It is most famous for it’s manipulation of time. Though the events in the book only take seconds, the story is over eight pages long. Time seems to slow for the man in the noose and at the same time speed up for the reader. In this way, Bierce presents his manipulation of time in the story.

The story starts off in the setting of a hanging. A gardener named Peyton Fahrquhar awaits his fait and thinks of his family for the last time. Below him is what is described as a madly racing stream. peyton
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“ He looked a moment at his "unsteadfast footing," then let his gaze wander to the swirling water of the stream racing madly beneath his feet.
A piece of dancing driftwood caught his attention and his eyes followed it down the current. How slowly it appeared to move! What a sluggish stream! ” - An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

This is an example of how the closer he comes to death, the slower time seems to move for him. In one moment the river is moving rapidly and in the next it is described as sluggish. Yet through the anticipation time is speeding up. It is as if the suspense has frozen time all together.

About a third into the story, it sifts to the past, as far Fahrquhar flashes back to when, what now seems stupid, his impulse to sabotage the railroad tracks to prevent the cival war soldiers from coming into the town with the possibility of harming his family was triggered. This builds the audience’s anticipation because the hanging hasn’t happened yet and the author is trailing off into other things. This is a “cut to the chase” stimulation as it builds the excitement.

It is like an unnecessary story while Fahrquhar is back on the noose still, waiting to die. The present, where Fahrquhar is dying, is the reality. The majority of the story is happening in his mind.
To be able to handle his death his mind takes him on a journey of escape and he imagines himself taking out his earlier plans and plunges into the river, swimming rapidly to
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