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's the scene in the first paragraph of "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"?

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We learn in the first sentence that the story is set in "northern Alabama" atop a railroad bridge that spans "swift water twenty feet below." There is a man held prisoner, his "wrists bound with a cord" behind his back, and a loop of rope that "closely encircled his neck." In case we weren't sure that this loop is actually a noose, some of the soldiers there are referred to his "executioners." We also learn that this man is being held by privates of the "Federal army," and this permits us to conclude that the story takes place during the American Civil War—sometime between 1861 and 1865—because this is the only era in which the Federal army would be lodged in Alabama and involved in executing people. The bridge is guarded by two sentinels who block the foot paths across so that no one can interrupt the proceedings.

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An unidentified man is standing on a railroad bridge (presumably the Owl Creek Bridge) in northern Alabama. He is about to be hanged: His hands are bound and tied, and his neck is in a noose, which is "attached to a stout cross-timber above his head." Several boards are placed across the railroad tracks on which the man stands. Troops of the Federal army--two privates and a sergeant--stand guard; a captain is also present; and on either end of the bridge are two sentinels who serve as sentries without apparent knowledge of the events that are transpiring between them.

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