Characterize Peyton Farquhar. If you think Bierce makes him sympathetic, consider the ways in which Bierce does so.

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Peyton Farquhar is a slave-owner, a Confederate sympathizer, and a saboteur. Bierce has no trouble making him sympathetic even to Union sympathizers because of several factors.

  • Farquhar is facing his death courageously. He knows he was taking a risk and realizes he has to pay for it with his life.
  • Farquhar has a wife and family.
  • Farquhar is all alone against a large contingent of the Union Army. We tend to root for the "little guy," and Farquhar is certainly the little guy here.
  • We naturally sympathize and identify with a man whose life is in danger if we are kept in his point of view. Another example is the unnamed protagonist of Jack London's "To Build a Fire." Yet another example is Meursault in Albert Camus' novel The Stranger. We don't necessarily have to "like" a character as long as we are held in his point of view and identify with his motivation. In Farquhar's case, he wants to live, he wants to go home to his wife, he wants to escape hanging. Bierce has an easy time creating sympathy for Farquhar. We could identify with almost anyone, even the worst type of criminal, if we were in his point of view and identified with his common human motivation--love, hate, fear, survival, greed, revenge, etc.
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An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

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