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

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

by Ambrose Bierce
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What is the irony in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"?

An irony in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" is that Peyton Farquhar, who believes that "all is fair in love and war," is tricked into capture by a Yankee scout because he falls into the trap of believing the scout is a Confederate. A second irony is that at the moment we believe Peyton has escaped and returned home, we realize it is all a fantasy and that he is about to die.

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Irony occurs when events unfold that are the opposite of what the reader is led to expect. In part 2, the chief irony is that the man in the gray coat who comes and asks for water is not a Confederate. Though the narrator never identifies him as a Confederate, Peyton Farquhar and his wife believe he is, and the reader goes along with their assumption. The Confederates wore gray, rather than dark blue like the North, and the man acts like a Confederate, thanking the wife "ceremoniously" for the water and "bowing" to the husband as if he is a Southern gentleman. Ironically, however, we find out that "he was a Federal scout." His goal is to lure Farquhar into trying to burn down the bridge so he can be arrested—and Farquhar falls into the trap. A further irony is that Farquhar has

without too much qualification assented to at least a part of the frankly villainous dictum that all is fair in love and war.

Ironically, he is the one who falls victim to the credo that "all is fair in love and war."

The ironic incident in part 3 is that that while we are privy to a long sequence in which Farquhar is described escaping from the hanging and returning safely home to his wife, the second we believe he has fallen into his wife's arms, he dies from being hanged. The whole sequence is the fantasy of a dying man in the instant between the choking sensation of the noose tightening and the moment of death.

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