An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge Questions and Answers
by Ambrose Bierce

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What is the message to the reader in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"?

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A short story does not necessarily have to have a message. As a work of art, a short story is intended to produce "a single effect." That is part of Edgar Allan Poe's definition and is now widely accepted. In order to analyze a short story it is a good idea to start with the single effect it produces. Poe used the term "effect," but we might call it the "feeling" or "emotional effect" produced by the story and left in the reader's mind after it ends. In Shirley Jackson's famous story "The Lottery," for example, we would probably all agree that the "effect" or feeling is one of horror and disbelief as Tessie Hutchinson is encircled by her own relatives, friends, and neighbors, all of whom are intent on stoning her to death. In "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge " the effect is one of pity and compassion for the poor man who thought he...

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