An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce

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An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge Point Of View

What point of view is used in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"?

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bmadnick eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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You have two kinds of narration, first person and third person. In first person, a character in the story is telling it, giving the reader only his/her thoughts and feeling about the other characters and the events. Third person is when you have a narrator who is not a character in the story telling us the story. Third person can be limited or omniscient. Limited third person allows the reader to know the thoughts and feelings of one of the characters. Third person omniscient gives us the thoughts and feelings of more than one character, but not necessarily all of them. It can be as many characters as the author feels is necessary in order for the story to be told.

This celebrated short story is divided into 3 sections, with each one having its own narrative technique. In the first section, it is told from the third person point of view where the narrator is an objective outsider telling the story. It describes the setting of the execution. The second section is third person limited because it gives us some of Farquhar's thoughts and feelings. It provides us with the background information on the events leading up to Farquhar's hanging. The third section starts where the first one ended, back on the bridge when Farquhar falls into the water. Now the viewpoint becomes first person because the reader is told how Farquhar feels as he tries to escape and get back to his home thirty miles away. At the end of the third section, narration switches back to third person, telling us Farquhar is dead.

By switching the narrative technique of each section, Bierce creates confusion in the reader to reflect what the main character is feeling, allowing us to take part in his hallucinations.

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Jonathan Beutlich eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The story opens with the 3rd person omniscient point of view.  Its effect is a colder and more emotionless tone to the story.  The narrator knows everything that is happening and is simply presenting the facts to the reader.  There is a guy on a bridge.  There are some soldiers there.  The guy is about to be hanged. 

In part two of the story the narrative point of view shifts from third person omniscient to third person limited.  The story focuses on Peyton Farquhar. Not only Peyton, but also Peyton's thoughts and emotions. The reader doesn't know what the Union soldier is thinking. The reader doesn't know what Peyton's wife is thinking either. What the reader knows is what Peyton does, says, and thinks. This narrative shift causes the reader to be much more sympathetic to Peyton. The reader cares about him and wants to see him succeed. The reader feels that it was a rotten trick to get him on that bridge. The reader shares Peyton's joy as the rope breaks, and his fears as he tries to complete his escape. The reader feels close to Peyton, because he is the only character that we really know anything about. It's a fantastic point of view shift, and the amazing thing is that the reader hardly notices that it has occurred.  

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Part One of the short story, Ambrose Bierce uses third-person limited narration to describe the formal setting of the execution, as well as Peyton's thoughts. In third-person limited, the narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of one person. In Part One, Peyton's feelings are described as he panics after hearing the ominous ticking of his watch and contemplates his escape.

In Part Two, the narration switches to third-person omniscient. The background information leading up to Peyton's execution is presented as a soldier informs Peyton about the Union's proclamation concerning the Owl Creek Bridge. However, the reader is told that the soldier speaking to Peyton is actually a Federal scout. This information creates dramatic irony, which is one advantage of using third-person omniscient narration.

The narration switches again to third-person limited in Part Three of the short story. Peyton's thoughts, feelings, and emotions are described in detail as he dreams of his escape. No other character's perspective is provided in the last section, which makes this third-person limited narration.

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minibug11 | Student

this short story is mix between two points of view;

third person dramatic: where it is just telling the facts and what is happening

third person limited omniscient: where it is telling the story from one character's perspective- only his thoughts

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cy1231 | Student

thirds person

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