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

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

by Ambrose Bierce

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What situation does Peyton Farquhar face in the beginning of "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"?

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The opening scene of story sets Peyton Farquhar on the Owl Creek Bridge with his neck in a noose and his hands bound behind him.  The reader is told that he is a civilian, so he/she is left to wonder why Farquhar is being hanged by an entire unit of Confederate troops.  As Farquhar is waiting for the men to make their final preparations for the hanging, Farquhar first "fix[es] his last thoughts upon his wife and children."  He then begins to think of ways to free himself from ropes that bind his hands, trying to figure out a way to escape this seemingly unescapeable situation.  This is where his thoughts are focused before the sergeant steps aside to release the wooden board holding him over the water, and then Bierce switches to a flashback in section II, leaving the reader wanting more.

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Peyton Farquhar, at the beginning of the story, is being prepared to be hanged from a bridge.  He has been caught by the Northern army for trying to sabotage a bridge.  He is a Southern sympathizer and is paying the ultimate price for this.  During the course of the story, he has flashbacks about his family and why he is being hanged that give the reader a clearer picture of who he is. 

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