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

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

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Ambrose Bierce’s short story “Owl Creek Bridge” draws much of its eerie power from the way it uses universal symbols. Bierce takes deeply evocative symbols—such as the bridge, the water, the forest, the noose, the clock, and the color grey—to layer the text with fresh meaning. The bridge on which the condemned protagonist is standing to be hanged represents both the universal passage between life and death, imagination and reality, and being and non-being as well as the historical divide between the Confederate and Federal forces during the American Civil War. The water into which Confederate-leaning Peyton Farquhar stares during his hanging are the actual waters of Owl Creek, symbolizing possible escape as well as age-old themes of change, flow, and transition.

As Farquhar awaits the plank of the bridge being lowered and taking him from life to death, the ticking of his clock reminds him of the passage of time. The clock symbolizes both the inexorable, unforgiving nature of...

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