What style of writing does Bierce use in "An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge"?

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kimfuji eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Bierce uses the dream vs. reality stylistic device in "An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge" to show the horrific psychological trauma that civilians experienced during the civil war. His techniques highlight the emotional and psychological affect that torure and death has on people even before they actually die.

In the story after the reader sees the man on the bridge, the story structure goes to the man's past to explain what happened. Then the story line comes back to the present and the dream sequence begins showing the man falling into the water and finally escaping. However the reader does not know it is a dream. It appears to be reality. The reader believes it is really happenening until the end, when we see that he was only dreaming of escaping.

This particular story evokes a kind of terror in the reader, in that, it highlights what a person goes through in his mind just moments before he is killed.

Most people think that death by hanging occurs instantly but this story shows what may occur in those few moments before death. It is like those few moments before this man's death are lengthened to include a whole story.

When reading this story, one might ask: why would Bierce write an entire story when he could have simply stated in a sentence that an innocent civilian was hanged at Owl Creek Bridge?  That is because he wanted to show the psychological state of the hanged man only moments before his death. If the reader can understand those few moments before death then war can be seen for the horror that it truly is.

Read the study guide:
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

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