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 literary devices are used in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"?

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Literary devices used in “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” include imagery, flashback, foreshadowing, simile, and symbolism.

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One key literary device used in “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” is imagery. Ambrose Bierce describes the place of the hanging in vivid detail. He shows how the rope restrains Peyton Farquhar’s body. He notes how the boards on the railway bridge are “loose.” He delves into thde people who are at the hanging—the sentinels and army officers. Bierce also uses imagery to portray Farquhar’s fantasized escape. He depicts the motion of the water and the actions of the soldiers. In both cases, imagery produces a limpid look into Farquhar’s dire situation.

Another literary device is flashback. After presenting Farquhar’s current circumstances, Bierce goes back in time to tell how he arrived at his death sentence. This literary device relates to another literary device: foreshadowing. The flashback lets Bierce touch on Farquhar’s home, which plays a key role near the end of the story.

Two additional literary devices are simile and symbolism. In the water, Farquhar is “spinning like a top.” This counts as a simile because Bierce employs a comparison term—like—to show how Farquhar, a man, is behaving as a precarious, enfeebled cap or lid might. Finally, Farquhar arrives at his home. Farquhar’s return home could be seen as a symbol. His home might represent his last resting place or the glorious peace that’s sometimes attributed to death. As Farquhar says about his house, “Ah, how beautiful she is!”

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