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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The man on the bridge in Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" remains anonymous until the second part of the story, yet he is described in great detail, even his thoughts. Why?

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Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" opens with a very objective point of view. The scene is described in great detail as if from the point of view of one simply looking down upon the scene as it unfolds. The "viewer" is unaware of who the man on the bridge is, only that the man was around 35, a civilian ("if one might judge from his habit"), with "good" features. The scene is simply set for the reader in the same way that a person may happen upon it in real life. 

It is not until the second section that the reader is "introduced" to the man on the bridge. He is Peyton Farquhar, a man accused of destroying the bridge at Owl Creek. Accused, for Farquhar, results in guilt. It is decided he will be hung. The second section tells the story of Farquhar and how he came to be standing upon the bridge. This section allows readers to get to know Farquhar and make a decision about his character. 

Bierce applies this technique in order to show readers how lack of substantial information (who someone really is) may cloud (blur) one's judgement of another. In the beginning, some readers may feel that the man deserves his fate (given the subjective point of view). It is not until readers can see Farquhar objectively (because of section two) that readers may change their mind about him and his actions. 

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