What does "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" reveal about the psychology of a person in a life-or-death situation?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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There is a belief that a person's life flashes before him during the final moments prior to death, and Peyton Farquar seems to go through something like this process in Ambrose Bierce's short story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." In Farquar's case, his sensory perceptions have been greatly magnified: The ticking of the watch seems deafening, and the water below appears sluggish. In addition to thinking of his loved ones in his final moments, he also holds out for a miraculous turn of events that may alter the outcome. Much like the death row prisoner who hopes for a last second postponement before execution, Farquar envisions his own salvation: The rope breaks and he swims to freedom in the waters below. Despite the surprising chain of events and strokes of luck that suddenly seem to befall Farquar, Bierce's story seems plausible until the reader discovers that it is only the doomed man's final thoughts before his inevitable death.

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