Ambrose Bierce is said to be one of the greatest writers of his time, and this is shown through his short story, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” The story is one of a man, Peyton Farquhar, who is from the south and wants to help the Confederacy out, so much so that he is willing to put his life at stake to destroy a Union blockade. Through the use of point of view, symbolism, and irony in Bierce’s, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” the reader is able to understand the main character, Peyton Farquhar, and his mentality as he is dying.
The bridge is another center for symbolism and irony in the story. The reader is told that Farquhar is an “original secessionist and ardently devoted to the Southern cause” (Bierce 73). In the story Farquhar is tricked by a Union scout and is drawn to the bridge in which a Union blockade is stationed upon. A bridge is usually used to symbolize the bringing together of two parts and uniting them as one which is similar to what Abraham Lincoln was trying to do in the beginning of the Civil War. The irony here is that this bridge did not symbolize the bringing together of two parts instead it just showed how separated and against each other the North and South really are at this time period. Peyton Farquhar’s name itself is symbolic as said by George and Judy Cheatham, “â€¦such a pair of names [Peyton Farquhar], of course, well suits a “well to do planter””(Cheatham 45) but in the story Farquhar goes beyond just being a well to do planter and instead becomes a martyr for the Confederate cause . In the story the author is not so much focused on Farquhar himself but instead the mentality of Farquhar and the things that are going on around him. In the story there is much more symbolism and irony, such as the noose in the story. For Farquhar the noose represents death, but for the soldiers the noose might symbolize a small victory that has been won by killing a Confederate rebel. A person can’t stand up for what they believe because they will be choked out by the stronger society and the government, and the noose is a symbol of that. The reader is told that Peyton Farquhar is a “well-to-do planter from Alabama” (Bierce 73) and a “student of hanging” (Bierce 73). Also from Conlogue the reader knows that “Farquhar grows hemp” (Conlogue 37). And the irony of this is that he has spent his life living around hemp and working with hemp and then he dies from a noose made of hemp. At the end of the story whenever Farquhar is swinging from the bridge it is similar to way that rope is actually made, by spinning the hemp round and round until a rope is formed. The irony is that Farquhar actually spent most years of his life making and growing hemp, and interestingly enough he may have even been hung by his own rope that he made. Although all seemingly unrelated the symbolism and irony of the story, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” does in fact contribute to the mentality of Peyton Farquhar as he is dying.
One must remember that if it weren’t for the different points of view made by the author then the story wouldn’t have held the same effect that it did and the reader wouldn’t have gotten as full of an insight into the mentality of Peyton Farquhar as he is dying. The symbolism all ties together and allows the story to be understood on many different levels by readers. One of the most interesting points in the story is that through the different points of views and flashbacks the author was able to write a story that made sense and wasn’t perplexing to the reader. The symbolism and irony throughout the story is somewhat hidden but once looked at a bit deeper it all becomes easily understood. In conclusion, throughout the story, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”, the point of view changes many different times and with that and the irony and symbolism found throughout the story the reader is able to get a clearer picture of the mentality of the main character, Peyton Farquhar and how the mind reacts to death that it knows is coming.