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 is the military portrayed in "An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge"?

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I think that a reader can find two distinct portrayals of the Union army in this story. The first portrayal is fairly positive. Ranks are given, and crisp narration lets readers know that the soldiers being talked about are professional soldiers. Everything about them is precise and orderly. Readers are given formal terms about how the soldiers are standing alongside of informal descriptions that tell us that their body language is enforced and erect. The soldiers are performing a gruesome act in that they are hanging someone, but they understand the gravity of the situation and they treat it with "military etiquette." Soldiers step away in perfect timing, salutes are given, and spacing between the soldiers is specific and orderly. This is the image that readers are given in section one of the story.

That image of a professional and honorable army unit is completely changed by the end of the second section. It is here that readers realize that same unit is also devious, cunning, and manipulative. The end of the second section reveals to readers that a Union soldier intentionally set up Farquhar to make his attempt on the bridge. The soldier sold the idea that he was a Confederate soldier, and we find out that in fact he is a Federal scout working behind enemy lines.

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