This story is an example of realism in part because it presents characters in a way that is very much true to life: they are flawed, they are nuanced, and they make errors in judgment. In short, they are human. They are not, for example, idealized or villainized as they...
This story is an example of realism in part because it presents characters in a way that is very much true to life: they are flawed, they are nuanced, and they make errors in judgment. In short, they are human. They are not, for example, idealized or villainized as they might be in, say, Romantic literature. The Union soldiers and officers are not presented as heroes, nor is Peyton Farquhar, the Southern plantation and slave owner, presented as an evil maniac. They all seem remarkably mundane.
Though readers likely will not identify with Farquhar's Confederate sympathies, he is presented as a man who loves his wife and children and dreads death (think about how his watch ticking in his last moments is "maddening" to him). These things serve to humanize him.
Further, this story is an example of realism because it depicts events that could happen in reality. It tells a story that could be true. Though it may be somewhat difficult to imagine that a person could fantasize all of the events that Farquhar does between the moment the Federal army officer steps off the plank in part 1 and the moment Farquhar's neck snaps in the noose at the end of part 3—an interval of seconds, or perhaps fractions of a second—Bierce leaves plenty of clues to suggest that Farquhar's perception of time in these moments before his hanging can be accounted for in a realistic way.
And who among readers, who more than likely have not faced imminent death in this way, can argue that such a portrayal is not realistic? Most of us have felt that time moves slower when we are excited about something in the future or that time seems to speed up when we are enjoying ourselves. So, in this sense, Farquhar's rapidity of thought doesn't seem quite so far-fetched in the moments leading up to his death.