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 major events occur in the story?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One of the most important events in the story is Peyton Farquhar's execution. He's hanged from a bridge by Union soldiers for conspiring to commit an act of sabotage, a very serious crime in wartime. Peyton was lead to commit this capital crime by a man who he believed to be a Souther soldier, who urges him to destroy the bridge in order to hold up the advance of the Union army.

The Southern soldier turns out to be no such thing, of course; he's a Union trooper in disguise. But because Peyton is such a loyal supporter of the Confederacy, he's willing to do whatever it takes to assist the cause, no matter how risky. One could argue that his fateful decision to try and blow up the bridge is the most important event in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," as it leads directly to his death by hanging, which is the story's main dramatic focus.

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Bridgett Sumner, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The story's main event is revealed at the end when Peyton Farquhar is hanged "from the timbers of the Owl Creek Bridge." The rest of the story's events are either the reminiscences of Farquhar or his desires expressed as a fantasy, such as the reunion with his wife in the moments before his death.

The story opens with the event of soldiers standing sentry at either end of the bridge while officers oversee the preparations for a hanging. The event that led up to Farquhar's condemnation is replayed: a Union scout in the guise of a Confederate comes to the house, and the fateful conversation between the soldier and Farquhar regarding the bridge takes place.

The event of Farquhar escaping the noose and being fired upon in Owl Creek does not actually take place; it is the detailed fantasy that Farquhar creates to distract himself from the agonizing truth of his imminent execution.

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