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rdb919 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Ambrose Bierce's story, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," the plot is filled with suspense. The first section shows Peyton being hanged on a bridge. This alone causes tension in the story because readers are witnessing an execution. The language Bierce uses to describe the soldiers and sentinels ("stonily," "motionless") brings tension to the story. The setting also has strong imagery. Bierce describes how the plank tilts over the "sluggish stream." He hears a "sharp, distinct, metallic, percussion" as he stands there. 

Bierce also creates suspense by stopping the narrative of the execution at the end of section I. The final line, "The sergeant stepped aside," leaves the reader without knowing what happened, which makes them want to continue on to find out. Bierce chooses other details which increase tension such as when shots are being fired at Peyton and he is spinning around in the water.  The final scene where Peyton can no longer feel the roadway under his feet amplifies the tone that Bierce has set from the beginning, making the shocking revelation that Peyton is dead all the more compelling.   

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An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

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