In An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge, why do you think the disguised Federal Scout suggested to Peyton that he burn the bridge?by Ambrose Bierce

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cldbentley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," a short story written by Ambrose Bierce, the reader is never actually told why a disguised Federal scout encourages Peyton Farquhar to attempt to burn Owl Creek bridge.  The reader must form her own opinion based on her knowledge of those involved, the events taking place nearby, and the general attitudes prevailing throughout the area and country.

In my opinion, the treatment given Farquhar by the Federal army suggests that he responded to bait fed him by the Union army in order for them to procure an enemy to make an example of.  Farquhar was extremely loyal to the Confederate cause, despite the fact that he was unable to serve as a soldier; he "chafed under the inglorious restraint, longing for the release of his energies...the opportunity for distinction."  Because he felt so strongly, he was willing to risk everything to undertake a mission that he believed would greatly benefit "his" troops.  The Federal army would have been aware that they were entering a particularly dangerous area, since they were nearing southern territory and were more likely to encounter Confederate sympathizers.  In addition, Union forces might have been at risk of their own members deserting or disobeying in other ways. Therefore, obtaining a prisoner whom they could use as an example to frighten those who had the potential to endanger them would have been a logical step.

In the first part of the story, the setting of Peyton Farquhar's impending hanging is described.  In addition, Bierce reveals that it is obvious that Farquhar is a civilian, which suggests that the Federal army was aware of this fact and considered Farquhar's offenses profound enough to warrant death.  The fact that "his face had not been covered or his eyes bandaged" indicates that Farquhar was given an execution devoid of any semblance of dignity or respect, as well as that his death would have been especially disturbing and unpleasant to any who witnessed it.

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An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

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