In "An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge," what was the method used to hang Peyton Farquhar?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Peyton's execution is staged at the center of a covered railroad trestle that spans Owl Creek. The train tracks are laid on top of railroad ties that make up the floor of the bridge. There are open spaces between the ties. If you were to step into one of these spaces, you would fall into the water below. 

The rope used to hang Peyton is tied to a timber over his head in the bridge's covering. A plank is laid across one of the railroad ties with each end of it hanging over spaces in the floor of the bridge. Payton stands with the rope around his neck on one end of the plank. A sergeant stands on the other end of the plank to balance it. At the end of Part I, the sergeant "steps aside," which causes Peyton's body, on the other end of the plank, to fall through the opening on the floor of the bridge. His body falls straight down, hitting the end of the rope, and breaking his neck.

Executing Peyton is no casual affair. His hanging is carried out with formal military ceremony, precision, and a certain kind of respect:

Death is a dignitary who when he comes announced is to be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him. In the code of military etiquette silence and fixity are forms of deference.

Peyton was hanged in a very civilized manner, according to strict military procedure--not that these circumstances gave him any comfort before he died.

Read the study guide:
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

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