What happens at the end of the story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"?
Throughout the short story, Peyton Farquhar is waiting to be hanged by the Union soldiers stationed at Owl Creek bridge. While Peyton is getting ready to die, he reflects on his life and dreams about escaping. Ambrose Bierce presents Farquhar's dreams of escaping to be reality and the reader believes that Peyton has amazingly found a way to escape his fate. In Peyton's daydream, he falls through the bridge, loses consciousness, and is able to avoid being shot as he swims to freedom. However, Bierce ends the story with a twist. In one short, declarative statement, he writes,
"Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge" (6).
It turns out that Peyton Farquhar was simply imagining his escape and ends up being hanged. Bierce slows down time throughout the story which leads the reader to believe that the events taking place happen over a longer period of time than they do in Peyton's mind. Peyton Farquhar's hanging actually happens in minutes and he ends up dying at the end of the story.
The entire story leads up to the tragic end where Farquhar dies. The story wanders rather slowly through different events in his life. Thus, the story is ultimately a flashback, because Farquhar begins by standing on the scaffold. The end is where he is actually hanged. His hanging happens when he is in a dreamlike sequence where he is running towards his home and his wife. One can assume this to be his most recent memory.