Identify one example of Farquhar's distorted perceptions in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge".

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Part Three of the short story, Peyton Fahrquhar images that he falls straight into the water underneath the Owl Creek Bridge, quickly loosens his bonds, and rapidly swims to the surface of the water. As Peyton is swimming away from the bridge, he dives and weaves through the water to avoid being shot by the Union soldiers on the opposite ridge. Peyton avoids being shot and successfully swims to the surface, where he crawls onto the dry land.

Peyton's distorted perception is revealed through his description of the surrounding natural environment. Peyton immediately digs his fingers into the sand, which he believes resemble "diamonds, rubies, emeralds" and is utterly astonished by the beauty of the landscape. Peyton then notices that the trees on the riverbank have "definite order" and believes that the wind gently blowing through the branches sounds like the music of an Aeolian harp. According to Peyton's distorted perception, the bank of the river is "perfect" and "enchanting." Peyton's heightened senses and dramatic near-death experience result in his distorted perception of the riverbank's landscape.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the first part of "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" as Farquhar stands, condemned, on the bridge and closes his eyes in order to "fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children," a sound strikes through these thoughts.  This sound is magnified to him:  "The intervals of silence grew progressively longer; the delays became maddening." 

Much like the narrator of Poe's "Tell-Tale Heart," Farquhar senses in his mind that the sounds increase in strength and sharpness; "They hurt his ear like the thrust of a knife"; he fears that he will scream out as Poe's narrator does.  In actuality, what he hears is the ticking of his watch, the author explains.  Thus, just as Poe's distressed and mad narrator who imagines the beating of the heart of his murder victim, Farquhar imagines the drums' beating--perhaps this is his beating heart--instead of the ticking of his watch.  Because he is at the point of death, Farquhar's senses muct surely be heightened and his mind greatly disturbed, both conditions which explain his distorted perception.

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An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

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