Describe in detail what you think about the narrator of this story. "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Ambrose Bierce's "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" is told from three differing points of view.  An interesting use of point of view is employed by Bierce, perhaps, to provide the readers with varying perspectives through which they can observe the "occurrence" of Peyton Faquhar's capture and hanging.

The first section of Bierce's story is told from a third-person objective point of view.  This point of view can be likened to the quick observance of a person noticing an "occurrence."  The view is such that one would see as though looking through a window or camera or binoculars.  For, the narrator reports without comment:

A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama....A rope closely encircled his neck.

By contrast, the second section reports in an omniscient point of view, in which the narrator seems to know much more about the personality of Peyton Faquhar as well what goes on before Faquhar is on the bridge:

Peyton Farquhar was a well-to-do planter, of an old and highly respected Alabama family.  Being a slave owner and, like other save owners, a politiian, he was naturally an original secessionist and ardently devoted to the Southern cause.

Then, in the third section the point of view moves from objective observer, to knowlegeable observer, to the limited third person.  Thus the vantage point has moved closer, closer, and even closer to the "occurrence" on the Owl Creek Bridge:  In fact, the third person limited point of view moves even more internally with Peyton Faquhar and the reader begins to identify with him:

How softly the turf had carpeted the untraveled avenue--he could not longer feel the roadway beneath his feet!....Doubtless, despite his suffering, he had fallen asleep while walking, for now he sees another scene--perhaps he has merely recovered from a delirium.

Abruptly, however, the limited third person narrator is interrupted by the stark final paragraph, an ending that returns the reader to the stark Naturalistic beginning where just a man stands with a rope around his neck. Now, at the end, he is dead.

Through his use of varying points of view, Ambrose Bierce, a Naturalist, illustrates the indifference of Nature to what happens to the individual.  This indifference is conveyed with the original anonymity of the prisoner in section I.  In section II, the reader learns more about the prisoner, and then, in section III, the reader does view the mind of the prisoner.  Nevertheless, this knowledge about the prisoner gives him no benefit:  he dies.


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