Essays on Symbolism in An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce Book Report/Review

The paper "Symbolism in An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce" is a wonderful example of a book review on literature. In Ambrose Bierce’s “An occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”, symbolism has been used to bring out the author's intent. This analysis seeks to explore the use and application of symbolism in the short story. First, the driftwood has been used to symbolize Peyton Farquhar’s unattainable freedom. As it floats over the water, so do his thoughts and fantasies. He visualizes himself executing a very brave escape through the water (Sergel 7). However, this does not materialize as he is already hanged and it is his imaginations, which flow into a fantasy world. He reasons that if he could free his hands, he would escape through the water to his family. “If I could let go of my hands, I would throw off the noose…and getaway home” (Bierce 35).

In addition, the owl creek bridge has also been used to build on symbolism. It suggests connection and transition evident in the story. The bridge was used to allow the enemy forces to further advance into Alabama, bringing the civil war into culmination (Clinton 78). It also symbolizes Farquhar’s attempt to disconnect himself from his body by allowing his thoughts to plunge into the fantasy world. “…the light about him shot growingly with the noise of a loud splash, and the frightful roar was in his ears, and all seemed cold and dark” (Bierce 39). Similarly, the bridge joins his life and death, which occurs after his hanging, just as it connects the two banks of the river. The bridge as well suggests a transition between fantasy and reality as he escapes to the water.
Ambrose Bierce has also employed the use of realism in his short story. The setting of the story is in North Alabama at the time of the civil war. The set-up of the execution team is close to what happens in reality. The positioning of the soldiers and their superiors and the way in which power and authority are displayed is evident in a military setting (Essential short stories 29). As Farquhar drifts in the fantasy world, the reader cannot tell any difference from the real world. It appears to be too real for one to question it. Lastly, it is clear that symbolism has helped Ambrose Bierce make the story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” a classic work.

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