In the story An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge, what is the significance of Peyton's illusions?

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mizzwillie | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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Ambrose Bierce, the author of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, believed that short stories should challenge a reader.  In this story, the main character Peyton Farquhar is a civilian, a Confederate supporter, and is standing on the bridge waiting to be hanged by the Union Army.  While Peyton waits so close to death, he sees the world around him in illusions. Bierce thought that people would have illusions when dying, and uses this example to show his ideas.  When the Union soldier steps off the board holding Peyton, Peyton is dropped below; in the short time between the drop and his death, Peyton imagines his escape, his return home, and his seeing his wife. Bierce shows that  most people try to avoid death even if it is unavoidable by escaping into the alternate world of illusion.