Realism In An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge

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The literary movement of realism developed shortly after the end of the civil war, a time period that is central to the plot of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. As a man from Northern Alabama is about to be hung, his executioners are described as, “Two private soldiers of the Federal army, directed by a sergeant, who in civil life may have been a deputy sheriff. At a short remove upon the same temporary platform was an officer in the uniform of his rank armed. He was a captain” (Bierce, 318). This description makes clear that the story takes place during the civil war, and that some of the most important characters are soldiers, sergeants, and a captain. These characters play a prominent role in the story in which the two sides of the civil…show more content…
Moments before his hanging, Peyton Farquhar, “awaited each stroke with impatience and – he knew not why – apprehension. The intervals of silence grew progressively longer; the delays became maddening… They hurt his ear like the thrust of a knife; he feared he would shriek. What he heard was the ticking of his watch” (319). This extremely detailed description of the ticking of a watch shows how much attention to detail was put into this work. The writing style affects the reader by making them feel like they can relate or even sometimes that they are the ones witnessing the event firsthand, a staple of realism. Shortly after falling off the bridge and into the rushing river below, his pain is described as “Keen, poignant agonies seemed to shoot from his neck downward through every fiber of his body and limbs. These pains appeared to flash along well-defined lines of ramification and to beat with an inconceivably rapid periodicity. They seemed like streams of pulsating fire heating him to an intolerable temperature” (320). Farquhar’s pain is described in such great detail that it is almost impossible to skip over. Realist writers, such as Bierce, use this to create a connection between the reader and the character where a sense of sympathy and concern develops throughout the story. Later in the story, as he takes off the…show more content…
When Ambrose Bierce opens up the story, he describes the setting through saying “A man stood upon a railroad bridge in Northern Alabama, looking down into the swift waters twenty feet below. The man’s hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck. It was attached to a stout cross-timber above his head” (318). Although this may seem a bit out of the ordinary at first, being hung was not too uncommon during the time period in which this story takes place. This situation not only creates an ordinary storyline, but it also makes the occurrence of a heroic escape seem unlikely. When pondering his inevitable death, Peyton Farquhar thinks “’My home, thank God, is as yet outside their lines; my wife and little ones are still beyond the invader’s farthest advance.’ As these thoughts, which have here to be set down in words, were flashed into the doomed man’s mind rather than evolved from it” (319). The fact that the man is concerned about the lives of his family more than his own is a common reaction to this short of situation and creates a sympathetic feeling for the reader. Bierce makes the disconnect between Farquhar and his family seem very real and the depressed and hopeless feeling that he possess even more so. As the story draws to a close and Peyton Farquhar feels like he
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