Are there any symbols in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Ambrose Bierce uses the bridge as a symbol in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge."  The bridge in question is a "railroad bridge in northern Alabama" and serves as a focal point of the story.  Bridges often represent transitions in literature, because they are used as natural connectors, joining pieces of land together.  The bridge in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" is symbolic on multiple levels. 

On the surface level, the bridge represents a tangible connection between the north and the south in the Civil War.  When Fahrquhar was visited by a scout, the man tells him "the Yanks are repairing the railroads," said the man, "and are getting ready for another advance." The Owl Creek Bridge is the intermediary between the two, and the north will use it to gain access to the south.  The bridge represents the opportunity of advantage in battle for the two opposing sides. 

For Peyton Fahrquhar, the bridge also comes to symbolize the moment of transition between life and death.  Held on a thin slab of wood over the rushing stream, Farhrquhar is to be hanged by the north for tampering with the bridge.   The bridge and the thin slab are the final connection that Peyton has to life:

"As Peyton Fahrquhar fell straight downward through the bridge he lost consciousness and was as one already dead."

Bierce uses the symbolism of the bridge as a symbol of transition and change in his story, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge."