Critical Essay of an Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

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Derek Tagert
Mr. Albers
ENGL II
April 17th, 2012
Critical Essay of An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge
In An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge, Ambrose Pierce strays from a typical Naturalist story tone in order to make the reader first identify with the protagonist before revealing the nature of his predicament. Bierce’s aim seems clear once one takes into account his military past, including 4 years of service in the Union Army during the American Civil War and his participation in multiple battles such as the Battle of Rich Mountain (July 1861), the Battle of Shiloh (April 1862), and the Battle of Kennessaw Mountain (June 1864)(Ambrose): to humanize the men who died needlessly in that war, regardless of allegiance. In the first two words of the first sentence of section I, we already see the attempt to create a vague description of the protagonist, Peyton Farquhar, thusly appealing to the human nature of the reader. It is much easier to identify with a vague description of “A man” (P.730) than to readily identify with him as a Confederacy sympathizer and attempted saboteur. Bierce then proceeds to paint a picture for the reader of a simple man in a dire situation: “The man’s hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope loosely encircled his neck.” (P.730) He then lends a sense of realism by adding the precise descriptions of the soldiers movements, positions and placements throughout the first section. The paragraphs seem to take turns with one another, first describing the sentenced man’s general situation, then the state of his executioners, and again to a more thorough description of what the man looks like. Bierce alludes to the man being capable of more intelligent thought, that he is somehow nobler than the average man, in the sentence: “The liberal military code makes provision for hanging many kinds of people, and gentleman are not exclude,” (P.731), which is yet another example of an attempt to make the man easier to sympathize with....

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