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

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

by Ambrose Bierce
Start Free Trial

What are some symbols in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"?

Symbols in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" include the railroad bridge, which is symbolic of rebellion, failure, and death, Farquhar, who is symbolic of the South's lost cause, the ticking of the watch, which is symbolic of time running out, and Farquhar's home and family, which are symbolic of his hope.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Ambrose Bierce fills his story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" with subtle symbols that enhance the story's depth and meaning. Let's look at some of these.

The railroad bridge itself is a symbol. Peyton Farquhar meant to blow it up as an act of sabotage against the...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Ambrose Bierce fills his story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" with subtle symbols that enhance the story's depth and meaning. Let's look at some of these.

The railroad bridge itself is a symbol. Peyton Farquhar meant to blow it up as an act of sabotage against the Union army, yet he told the wrong person about his plans. Now, he is standing on the bridge ready to hang. The bridge that once symbolized his rebellion now stands for his failure and death.

Farquhar himself is symbolic of the lost cause of the South. He is a planter, an elite member of society; but now, he has been brought to his lowest point, standing on a bridge with a rope around his neck, waiting to be executed. As the story progresses, we think that Farquhar might just escape. But the story ends with Farquhar hanging from Owl Creek bridge.

As Farquhar stands on the bridge waiting, he hears a sharp sound, a regular "metallic percussion" that almost drives him crazy. The sound fills him with apprehension, for it reminds him of a death knell. The sound is "the ticking of his watch," but it symbolizes that time is running out for Peyton Farquhar.

During Farquhar's apparent escape attempt, he thinks primarily of going home to his family. His home symbolizes a place of safety and comfort and his wife and children his greatest love. Farquhar believes that by his resistance to the Union, he is protecting his home and family, the smaller, more intimate version of the society in which he lives. His family also symbolizes his hope.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on