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

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge book cover
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What is the effect of the shift into the present tense in paragraph 36 in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge?"

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The shift to the present tense in the penultimate paragraph gives a sense of immediacy to Peyton Farquar's experience. But it's not the immediacy of reality; instead, it's the immediacy of a dream. Farquar imagines himself standing at the gate of his own home; all is as he left it, bright and beautiful in the morning sunshine. To top it all off, he's tickled pink to see his lovely wife descending the steps of the veranda to greet him.

But just before they embrace, Farquar feels a sudden blow to the back of the head. Reality has impinged upon his dream; far from being at home with his wife, he's experiencing his last few moments on earth before dangling lifelessly beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek Bridge. There was always something decidedly unreal about his predicament, and this was reflected in the use of the past tense; it was as if none of this were...

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