silhouette of a man half submerged in water wiht a noose around his neck

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

by Ambrose Bierce

Start Free Trial

In "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," what broad statement about life or the human experience does the story suggest?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One could say that "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" deals with the damaging effects of war on the human mind. Ordinarily, Peyton Farquhar would be living a normal, peaceful life with his wife on their plantation. But the Civil War has turned him into a partisan for the South. In turn, this had led him to take the almost insane risk of trying to burn down a bridge in order to stop Union soldiers from crossing it.

One gets the impression that Peyton's the kind of man who'd never ordinarily dream of doing such a thing. But like so many people over the centuries, his entire being has become corrupted by war. A peaceful, law-abiding farmer has been turned into a terrorist, a saboteur, and an arsonist. And this is all because of war.

In Peyton's last few moments on earth, he starts to fantasize about making his way back to the plantation and into the loving arms of his wife. This is who and what he really is: a loving husband who just wants a quiet life. But that's the thing about war: it doesn't let anyone live a quiet life. Instead, it forces people to pick sides, with often fatal consequences, as in the case of Peyton Farquhar.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team