What is real in "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" and "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World"? What is the nature of reality.

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the first story, the only real portion of the story is that the man is hanged.  The whole scenario of the rope breaking and the victim floating downstream towards home, in essence escaping, is just a fanciful daydream that occurs between the moment he is pushed and the moment his neck breaks.

In the second, the real portion of the story is that a dead man no one knows has washed up on shore.  The women of the town create a personal history for him, but it isn't a real history.  However, the desire of the women to improve their surroundings because of their desire for the "made up" man is real, and brings real change.

Reality in these stories is presented as the actual events that have occurred.  However, both stories suggest that personal reality is possible.  In other words, people can interpret life in personal ways, and those interpretations - however fanciful - can have a strong and lasting impact on either themselves or others.  Therefore, reality is subject to interpretation.  If a man  cancels his wedding because he BELIEVES that his betrothed is cheating on him, the result is the same - doesn't matter if she is really cheating or not.

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