An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge book cover
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Bierce's style is to tell his story out of chronological order. How might the impact of the story be different if the events were revealed in order?  

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William Delaney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This is a very interesting question. No doubt Ambrose Bierce himself considered writing the tale in chronological order but decided against it. For one thing, he would have had to sacrifice the extremely graphic and dramatic opening with the viewpoint character standing on the bridge with the noose around his neck, the sentries standing like statues, and the water rushing madly down below him. The biggest departure from chronological order occurs in the flashback which explains where Farquhar comes from and why he is about to be hanged. This flashback is handled with admirable professional skill. It blends smoothly into the opening scene, and it furnishes information the reader wants very much to know. It also makes Farquhar a real, sympathetic human being whose feelings we can appreciate. After the soldier steps off the plank and lets Farquhar's body fall between the railroad ties, the story seems to return to fairly straightforward chronological order. It is hard to see how the chronology could have been different except for putting all the explanatory material about Farquhar's sympathies and motives first--and that would have detracted seriously from the effect of this great story.

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