What are the objective viewpoints in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Bierce begins Part 1 of the story in what is normally referred to as third person objective point of view.  In the first four paragraphs of "Occurrence," the narrator describes Peyton Farquhar (known only as the man on the bridge at this point) with a rather detached, observant tone.  The narrator notes that

"the man who was engaged in being hanged was apparently about thirty-five years of age."

The word "apparently" in the sentence above demonstrates that narrator is not familiar with Farquhar and is simply relating to the reader what he sees.  However, at the end of the fourth paragraph, the story abrubtly changes from a third person objective point of view to a third person limited narrator.  This narrator begins to tell the reader exactly what Peyton is looking at, hearing, focusing on, and eventually what he is thinking.

Later, especially in Part 3, the story again changes to a stream-of-consciousness narration where readers are inside Peyton's mind during his fantasy escape.  And then, finally, the story ends once again in third person objective point of view with its brief last paragraph.

Bierce most likely uses this shifting point of view technique not only to create a the sense of one's life flashing before his eyes, but also to show that if one is willing to look at a situation from several different perspectives, he might have a more realistic idea or objective view of real-life "occurrences."

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An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

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