Whose struggles and feelings does the narrator relate in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"?

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rmhope's profile pic

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Ambrose Bierce wrote this story using different perspectives. Although the entire story is written in third person, the point of view is limited, allowing Bierce to accomplish his "trick ending." 

At the beginning of Part I, the narration is highly objective, reporting on no feelings of the soldiers or the man being hanged. The last three sentences of the fourth paragraph allow the reader into the mind of Peyton Farquhar, the man being executed, and the remainder of that section continues from his point of view.

In Part II, the narration switches back to an objective description again, reporting the facts of Farquhar's background and the visit from the "gray-clad soldier." No character's feelings are described, but the last sentence of the section reveals a fact that Farquhar did not know, namely that the soldier "was a Federal scout."

Part III changes the perspective again, this time becoming fully Farquhar's perception. The reader knows everything Farquhar sees, feels, and thinks as well as what he does. Although there seem to be descriptions of actions as in Parts I and II, the reader is deceived by this because it turns out that all the action being described has occurred only within the few seconds of the hanging—all in Farquhar's imagination. The last sentence of the story returns to objective narration, describing what Farquhar is no longer able to perceive: The body of the man "swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge."

Peyton Farquhar's struggles and feelings are the only ones the reader is made privy to in this story. Interestingly, Bierce's vacillating points of view lull the reader into believing the story is more objective than it turns out to be.

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bmadnick's profile pic

Posted on

The narrator is talking about Peyton Farquhar, the main character of the story. The story opens when Farquhar is about to be hanged for trying to blow up a bridge for the Confederates. What is interesting about the narration of the story is that the narrator makes the reader think that Farquhar survives the hanging because the rope broke. It isn't until the end of the story that the reader is told that he did hang. Part III is only in the imagination of Farquhar just before he hangs.

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