What are the conflict(s) and themes of "An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge? Such as man vs. circumstance, man vs. society, etc.

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are various conflicts in the story, some involving the character, Peyton Farquhar, and others designed by the author, Stephen Crane. The main conflict involving Farquhar is his risky decision to attempt to destroy the Owl Creek Bridge based solely on the information presented him by the "gray-clad soldier" who stops by his home for a drink of water. The soldier turns out to be a Union spy dressed in Confederate clothing, and it is apparent that the man has prior information concerning Farquhar's undercover activities.

Most of the other conflicts of the story derive from Crane's brilliant use of flashback and flashforward, and his deceptive skill at convincing the reader that the noose around Farquhar's neck has actually broken. Can Farquhar make it home safely and see his wife and children once again? The question becomes moot when the reader finally recognizes that Farquhar's escape is not real but only his final thoughts as he hangs from the bridge.

Several themes develop from Crane's crafty storytelling. Appearance (or dreams) vs. reality is one, while Crane's use of the untrustworthy narrator results in the themes of deception and the true movement of time.

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An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

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