silhouette of a man half submerged in water wiht a noose around his neck

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

by Ambrose Bierce

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Who does Peyton support in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge", the North or the South?

Quick answer:

Peyton Farquhar supports the Confederacy.

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Peyton Farquhar supports the Confederacy. As the text makes abundantly clear, he is "ardently devoted to the Southern cause." He hails from a respected Alabama family that has lived in the area for generations. Under the circumstances, it would be amazing if he weren't a supporter of the Confederacy.

Peyton's support for the Confederacy is so fanatical that he's prepared to do whatever it takes to advance the Southern cause, irrespective of the dangers to himself or to others. This leads him into making the fateful decision to attempt to destroy the bridge at Owl Creek in order to hold up the Northern Army's advance. Unfortunately for Peyton, he's walked right into an enemy trap and is arrested and subsequently hanged from the bridge for attempted sabotage. Peyton lived for the Southern cause, and now he's died for it, too.

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Peyton Farquhar is definitely a Southerner, a Confederate sympathizer and staunch supporter of the South in the Civil War, but he is a civilian plantation owner at the time of the story which takes place during the war. Farquhar has been deceived by a Union scout posing as a Confederate soldier. This scout stopped by Farquhar's home and told him that the strategically important Owl Creek Bridge could easily be set afire because of all the driftwood that had piled up against it. When the story opens Farquhar is about to be hanged because he decided to make a solo attempt to sabotage the bridge and was easily caught by the Union sentries because they were expecting their scout to have inspired some patriotic Southerner to make just such an attempt. The bridge is being held by the Union Army and is of great importance for further advances of the army. Although the bridge assumes great importance in Farquhar's life as well, since his adventure leads to his death, the surrealistic story's title suggests that this is just a trivial occurrence at a remote site in a great conflict which resulted in the deaths of over 600,000 men.

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