In "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," what is the function of the flashback in section two and why is it placed there?

Expert Answers

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

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge is neatly divided into three sections, the first and last longer and the middle one shorter. Section two provides the explanation of how and why the protagonist, Southern civilian and self-appointed saboteur Peyton Farquhar, has come to be standing on Owl Creek Bridge, waiting to be hanged. Strictly speaking, an explanation is not necessary—the story would still work if we knew nothing more than that Farquhar is a Confederate being executed by Federal soldiers—but it deepens the reader's appreciation and understanding of Farquhar's situation and therefore increases the emotional impact of the brutal surprise ending.

However, while the background is important, it would have been a mistake for Bierce to follow chronological order and place it at the beginning. To do so would have drastically reduced the impact of the story. To begin in the middle of the action, so to speak, with Farquhar's neck already in the noose, grabs the reader's attention and...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 588 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

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

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team