When Peyton finally reaches the shore, what does Bierce compare the sand to, and what is he trying to say about Peyton's new perspective on life?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As was mentioned in the previous post, when Peyton Fahrquhar imagines that he is flung onto the southern embankment of the river, he crawls onto the beach and digs his hands into the sand. Peyton begins to joyfully throw the sand into the air over his head in celebration, and Bierce writes that the sand resembles diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. Bierce is suggesting that Peyton appreciates every small aspect of life and is simply grateful to be alive. Peyton is then reminded that he is still not safe when the cannon fires grapeshot at close range. Peyton then dashes into the forest and eventually walks to his home. On his walk home, Peyton notices the beautiful natural environment. He is overcome with a feeling of ecstasy and peace as he imagines that he is reuniting with his wife and children before he dies. Bierce suggests that Peyton has come to terms with his death and his new perspective on life allows him to appreciate the natural environment like never before. Peyton becomes aware of the beauty found in the blades of grass, grains of sand, and constellations as he is standing on the plank awaiting death.

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As Peyton dreams of his escape and his fantasized safety on the shore, he gleefully digs his hands into the sand and thinks that it

"look[s] like diamonds, rubies, emeralds; he could think of nothing beautiful which it did not resemble."

Bierce uses Peyton's sudden fascination with and affinity for natural elements such as the "valuable" sand and unusually bright trees to demonstrate that Peyton now values life, especially simple observations, more than he ever did before.  When he was a wealthy plantation owner, he was discontent and wished that he could play an active part in the war.  But, now that his life literally hangs in the balance, Peyton would give anything to be able to enjoy the natural, concrete elements of the living.

Read the study guide:
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

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