An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge Study Guide
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge: Themes
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge: Characters
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge: Analysis
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge: Critical Essays
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge: eText
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge: Multiple-Choice Quizzes
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge: Questions & Answers
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge: Introduction
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge: Biography of Ambrose Bierce
Introduction to An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” is a short story by Ambrose Bierce. It was originally published in 1890 in the San Francisco Examiner, before being included in Bierce’s short story collection Tales of Soldiers and Civilians. It has gone on to become one of the most frequently anthologized and well-recognized short stories in American history, spawning several film adaptations.
Bierce was a veteran of the American Civil War, and much of his writing focuses on the unique political, social, and artistic ramifications of the war on American society. “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” is a direct refutation of the common narrative that war was about glory or romance. Instead, Bierce crafts a narrative in three parts that details the disintegration of protagonist Farquhar’s relationship with reality in the face of his impending death. There is no honor or dignity in death for Farquhar; instead, Bierce showcases that no matter which side of a conflict someone is on, war is horrific enough to reduce the loss of a human life to a mere “occurrence.”
A Brief Biography of Ambrose Bierce
Ambrose Bierce (1842–1914) was an important American story writer working around the turn of the twentieth century. Born and raised in Ohio in a family of humble means, he developed an early love for the written word and worked as a printing apprentice at a newspaper. At the start of the American Civil War, the adolescent Bierce enlisted in the Union Army. He fought in numerous battles throughout the war and received an injury to the head. At the end of his military service, he found himself in San Francisco, where he then lived, on and off, for many decades. During his life, he was well known as a journalist, writing for the San Francisco Examiner and other publications.
Bierce’s literary legacy mainly rests on the strength of his short stories, though he also wrote a number of poems. Many of Bierce’s most celebrated stories, such as “The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (1890) and “Chickamauga” (1889), draw directly on his experiences in the Civil War, which he conveys with grim realism and, in many cases, stylistic originality. Due to his unsentimental view of nature and death, Bierce’s work is often discussed in the context of naturalism. Bierce is also known for The Devil’s Dictionary (1911), a compilation of satirical definitions that he composed over the course of decades.