In what ways are the condemned man's perceptions of time and motion distorted as he is waiting to be hanged?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As you might expect from a person who is about to die, Farquhar's perceptions are distorted and inconsistent.  The first example you can see here has to do with how he perceives the river rushing below him.  First, he notices that it is rushing very fast.  But then it becomes sluggish and he is surprised by how slowly in is moving.  He

let his gaze wander to the swirling water of the stream racing madly beneath his feet. A piece of dancing driftwood caught his attention and his eyes followed it down the current. How slowly it appeared to move, What a sluggish stream!

In addition, his perception of time is elongated.  In a very short period of time, he has a lot of thoughts.  He thinks of his family, he thinks about how he might escape death.  He thinks about how loudly his watch seems to be ticking, all in a split second.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I view everything that happens to Peyton Farquar after he drops through the railroad trestle as his final thoughts as he strangles to death at the end of the rope. Prior to the hanging, time slows down and his senses are more aware. The wood in the river floats by slowly; he is distracted by the water below and the soldiers on the bridge. They are obstacles to his final thoughts on which he wishes to concentrate: his wife and family back home. Even more distracting is the "loud, metallic sound" that he suddenly hears. He finally realizes it is the ticking of his own watch. His escape into the creek below also beckons him, but it never actually happens. His final thoughs of escape, freeing his bonds, and returning home are only his dying thoughts.

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An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

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