What point of view does the writer use in Part III of the story,  which occurs within the few seconds before Farquhar dies?  

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Ambrose Bierce's innovative and intriguing short story, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," there are variations in point of view:

  1. omniscient, in which the narrator knows everything about all the characters and events
  2. objective, in which the narrator simply reports without comment, must as a camera would record a scene
  3. third-person limited, in which the narrator focuses on the thoughts and feelings of a single character.

In Part III of his narrative, Bierce employs two variations of point of view, third-person limited and objective. Throughout most of part III, the third-person limted is used as Bierce's narrator zooms in on the sensations of Peyton Farquhar as he is "conscious of nothing but a feeling of fullness....of torment...of motion."  Interestlngly, it is through this third-person limited point of view that the psychology of Farquhar is explored, rather than through first-person point of view, which is more often used in such circumstances.  Then, it is only in the final paragraph that the realization of the extent to which Farquahr's imagination has contributed to the narrative strikes the reader who is jolted by the use of objective point of view:

Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge.

This effective use of point of view makes Bierce's short story one that serves as a sterling example of the creative manipulation of one of the primary elements of the short story genre.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ambrose Bierce utilizes third person limited narration as well as third person objective narration throughout Part Three of the short story. Third person limited point of view is when the narrator only describes the thoughts and feelings of one character, as opposed to an omniscient narrator who describes multiple characters' thoughts and feelings.

Bierce utilizes third person limited narration for the majority of Part Three by describing Peyton Farquhar's thoughts and feelings as he imagines his escape. Peyton's thoughts of terror are described as he struggles to untie his bonds underwater. His sense of pain and fear are vividly depicted as he struggles to swim to the surface. The narrator recalls Peyton's keen sense of vision as he observes life in immaculate detail after rising to the surface of the water. Peyton's inner thoughts are once again narrated as he swims away from the bullets flying in his direction. As Peyton is swimming, he even mentions that the officer will not make the "martinet's error a second time" and command his troops to fire at will. Peyton's perception of the beautiful landscape is described after he reaches the shore and the narrator proceeds to illustrate Peyton's journey home.

The last sentence of the short story is narrated in the third person objective, which is when the narrator only describes what is happening without elaborating on any character's thoughts or feelings. The narrator ends the story by stating that Peyton Farquhar was dead and his body swung gently below the Owl Creek Bridge.

Read the study guide:
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

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