An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge Realism

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parkerlee's profile pic

parkerlee | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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The way the story unfolds is indeed realistic, but the literary genre seems to be an example of  naturalism more than anything else. The heightening discrepancy between the way things seem and the way they really are and the manner in which the protagonist's own senses are foiled reinforce this stance.

Some critics even classify this work as being gothic, with a focus on the morbid, sinister side of nature.

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," obvious examples of realistic detail are the setting of the Civil War with the enmity existing between the two sides fighting.  This description of the setting told from the third person point of view is conventional realism, of course.  However, with the switch to first person point of view and then back to third person, there is a disorientation of the reader as to what is actually happening.  But, ironically, through this change in point of view, Bierce creates his most brutal realism:  the horrors and ugliness of war.

The character of Faquhar, whose name conquers romantic tales of adventure, entertains the romantic idea of an "opportunity for distinction" by sabotaging the railroad bridge.  But, Bierce satirizes this romantic idea in Faquhar's being a prime target for entrapment by the Union soldier.  Even with the rope around his neck, Faquahar cannot accept reality, imagining that he escapes.  The return to third person point of view underscores the cold reality of the ugliness and brutality of war:  Faquahar, is, indeed, dead.