An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce

As I began to read Bierce’s story, I immediately noticed how descriptive his writing is.  He paints a picture of the scene on the bridge, the visit  with Peyton Farquhar, and Farquhar’s journey to death quite vividly.  I almost felt like I was there – in the story.

At first, I found it a bit difficult to get into the story.  It was  grim to think that someone was being hanged.  It led one to believe that someone had committed a war crime until I read part two about Peyton Farquhar.  Peyton was a bit adventurous – too adventurous for his own good.  He even seemed to think that he was “above the law” and could do whatever he chose to do and get away without suffering the consequences.  In life, we read about or maybe even know people who live their lives in that manner.  They seem to think that because they have a certain social status, the rules of those in authority do not apply to them.  They are like Peyton in that they want to buck the system and see what they can get away with.  However, the narrator of the story did say that provision is made through the liberal military code for hanging all kinds of people, and that included gentlemen.  In other words, it does not matter who you are, the law is the law, no exceptions.

The story does not tell us how he got caught; but, it tells us about the encounter with the Federal scout.  Deception is real.  People pretending to be who they are not in order to get what they want.  Peyton thought that he was smart; but, he was not above being deceived.  That happens in our lives also.  People present themselves on way when they are actually another and we may not find out until it is too late.

The mind is a powerful tool.  In his mind, Peyton took an elaborate journey to death.  It was full of adventure, pain, realization of loving family and home, and all sorts of feelings – emotional, physical and spiritual.  It was shocking to find out that the entire description of falling into the stream, freeing himself from the ropes, dodging bullets and cannon balls, ending up going through the wilderness and reaching home, was a prelude to death.  Contrasting that to life, the journey through life may include times when one feels bound, not by ropes, but by issues of life and may feel helpless and hopeless.  One may feel that his or her footing is being shaken and falling is the only option.   Falling may cause one to open his or her eyes and begin to experience feelings and emotions that are overwhelming, painful and then comfortable.  The outcome may be as shocking as the realization that Peyton died at the bridge and that only his mind freed him for a moment.


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