How does the story's point of view change at the end of paragraph 7 of the story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge?"  

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ambrose Bierce uses a variety of points of view within the story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." The story begins with a third person limited point of view. The narration focuses on what is outwardly observable without entering into the minds or thoughts of any of the characters that are described. Thus the motions, positions, and appearance of the captain, the sentinels, the civilian, and the sergeant are described in an objective fashion. Toward the end of the fourth paragraph, the perspective changes, and the narration becomes third person limited omniscient and begins to describe what the civilian, who is about to be hanged, is seeing and even thinking. This perspective holds throughout paragraphs five and six, with paragraph five detailing the man's physical sensations and paragraph six disclosing his thoughts. The last sentence of paragraph seven returns to the detached, objective third person limited narration by reporting matter-of-factly, "The sergeant stepped aside." 

The vacillating points of view that Bierce uses allow him to set up the fantastical action of the story without giving away the twist ending, namely, that the action occurs only in Peyton Farquhar's head. Because he uses a third person limited perspective at times at the beginning of the story, the reader is drawn into the realism of the story and assumes that Farquhar's surprising escape is also real. Tracking the shifts in point of view are helpful in understanding how Bierce is able to pull off his trickery so effectively. 

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An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

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