silhouette of a man half submerged in water wiht a noose around his neck

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

by Ambrose Bierce
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Define foreshadowing and give an example of it from "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge."

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Another example of foreshadowing quoted directly from the story comes from the third section.  The third section is a continuation of the first in which the reader finds out that Farquhar is about to be hanged.  The first sentence of this section states,

     “As Peyton Farquhar fell straight downward through the bridge     he lost consciousness and was as one already dead.”

This foreshadows for the reader that at the start of section three, Peyton Farquhar was already dead and that none of the events that are described in that third section ever really happened.


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Foreshadowing in literature are clues or hints in the story of events to come later in the story.

In An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, the story is a little disordered and the reader gets confused about what happens first.  The first part of the story is what is currently happening, Peyton Farquhar is going to be executed by the Union or Federal Army.  He was caught conspiring to blow up Owl Creek Bridge.  

Standing on the bridge he plotted to destroy, Farquhar, noose around his neck begins to imagine his family, he imagines that he escapes.  Except, the reader does not know whether his imaginings are real or just a dream he has as he is seconds away from death.

In my view, after Farquhar begins to imagine that he has escaped, the whole sequence of events foreshadow the end of the story.  As he escapes in his dream, he swims away, unharmed, while several soldiers are shooting at him in the water.  I found this very suspicious.

Farquhar swims and swims until he can safely leave the water and run onto land.  He then begins to run and run and run, all to get away from Federal forces and back to Southern controlled territory.  He seems to have unlimited energy and ability to travel great lengths.  This is an indication that he is experiencing a fantasy rather than a real event.

"In this section, the narrator's language is often melodramatic. For example, when Farquhar is in the river, fighting to break the rope around his wrists, the narrator declares: "What splendid effort!" and "What superhuman strength!" Additionally, the surroundings are described in the minutest detail, suggesting that Farquhar could not possibly be experiencing what is being described."

Finally, when Farquhar is within sight of his home, there is no sign on the face of his wife of any emotion regarding her husband's impending death.  She appears carefree and happy, unusual behavior on the day of your husband's execution.  The only explanation for this behavior is that she is a vision, as he wants to remember her.

As he reaches out to hug his wife, who remains smiling in a rather wooden fashion, he is literally jolted back to reality, he is swinging from the end of the rope, dead by execution for his crimes against the Union or Federal Army.

Peyton Farquhar is executed, at the end of the story we discover that he was only imagining his escape it was all a dream.    

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