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 sensation does Farquhar experience "with terrible suddenness" before he has been hanged in "An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge"? Please explain it in detail because I don't understand this story at all.

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The passage to which you are referring is

Then all at once, with terrible suddenness, the light about him shot upward with the noise of a loud plash; a frightful roaring was in his ears, and all was cold and dark.

These lines describe what Farquhar feels in the instant after he is actually hanged.  The paragraph describes him falling "straight downward through the bridge," and as he perceives himself hanging, swinging like "a vast pendulum," he is seized, "with terrible suddenness" with the sensation of the light shooting upward, and "a loud plash."  Conceivably, the rope has somehow broken, and Farquhar feels himself falling and landing in the water.  The story goes on to describe his desperate escape, as he tries to elude the gunshots of the men who shoot at him as he attempts to get away in the water, only to return, at the very end, to the image of Peyton Farquhar hanging dead, at the end of the hanging rope, his body swinging "gently from side to side."

The story at this point might be a bit confusing because it focuses on what goes on in Farquhar's imagination in the few seconds between when he is hanged and when he dies.  Farquhar imagines, "with terrible suddenness," that the rope has broken and that he has been given a second chance, but in reality, it has not broken at all.  A tremendous amount takes place in his mind in those few seconds, but in the end, the result is the same.  The author fools the reader into believing, as does Farquhar momentarily, that the victim has escaped his planned demise, but in the end, despite the vivid activity in Farquar's mind, the reader realizes that the hanging has indeed been successful, and Farquhar is dead, hanging at the end of the rope.

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