An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge Questions and Answers
by Ambrose Bierce

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge book cover
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Explain how Bierce's use of stream of consciousness techniques adds to the story's drama in "The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge."

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Stream of consciousness narrations are often characterized by a lack of clarity between one thought and the next, the absence of punctuation and/or capitalization, perhaps even varied and ungrammatical sentence structures.

The narration in this story does not look quite like what we might be used to in other texts that make use of this technique. However, in the third part of this story, Bierce employs a kind of stream of consciousness to show readers what it is like in Peyton Farquhar's mind as he falls from the Owl Creek bridge into the noose. This time would just consist of a second, or even a fraction of a second, and, yet, part 3 is the longest part of the narrative. Toward the end of part 1, Farquhar experienced the sensation that time was slowing down, and this perception sets the stage for part 3.

The stream of consciousness increases the drama of the story because this section is full of strange events that make us question their reality, and yet we are inclined to believe that Farquhar has, indeed, escaped execution. He experiences neck pain, certainly, but he also can perceive every minute insect crawling on the leaves in the forest, even the veins of the leaves themselves, from a significant distance.

Things feel somewhat mystical or magical—the forest is full of strange noises and voices that speak in some "unknown tongue"—and we can tell that all is not quite right in Farquhar's head, that he is confused and anxious and frightened and exhausted, and we are held in suspense, waiting to find out just what is going on.

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