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

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge book cover
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How did the ending change the way you interpreted events in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"?  

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Jonathan Beutlich, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There is no real right or wrong answer to this question.  It might differ from reader to reader, so as long as you explain your response, you should be good to go.  

I will tell you how most of my students react to the ending of this story.  It usually goes something like this: "Wait. What?  He died?  That means . . . he imagined. . . everything.  Worst story ever!"  

Of course they don't really mean that last part though, because I believe that any story that can get such a heated response is a fairly good story.  

The ending does change some specifics of the story for me though. For example, my interpretation of the first sentence of section three changes quite a bit.  

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

It says that Peyton was "as one already dead."  Well, that's because he basically was dead at that point.  My interpretation of the rope breaking changed too after knowing the end of the story.  When I first read the story, I completely accepted the fact that the rope was able to break. Of course after knowing the ending to the story, I thought myself foolish for believing that.  Why would the rope break?  Of course it was his imagination.  

Probably the largest reinterpretation for me is the story's use of the word "conscious."  Part three says several times that Peyton was not conscious of a certain feeling or effort.  

He was not conscious of an effort, but a sharp pain in his wrist apprised him that he was trying to free his hands.

Because I know that the entire part three sequence happened in Peyton's head, it now makes total sense that Peyton wasn't conscious of anything.  When I'm dreaming, I'm not conscious of anything either.  And that's what happened to Peyton. 

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