This Short story by Ambrose Bierce is excellent in terms with the plot, sense of time and descriptive writing. After reading the story what I favor most about this story is the use of time and how it keeps the reader interested from the start to the end with its imagery and exquisite description. In the beginning, the outlook appears to be dark as the main character Peyton Farquhar, is being hanged. “The man’s hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck.
It was attached to a stout cross-timber above his head and the slack feel to the level of his knees. ” The writer describes the surroundings with the soldiers, the bridge, and even the creek below. From the beginning the events leading up to the hanging give a case of anxiety and the undoubtedly end of Peyton. But right as the noose gets tight the story goes immediately into a flashback. This allows us to see his background and how he came into the position that he is in at Owl Creek Bridge.
The flashback is vital in painting a picture of Peyton’s daydream, which as soon as it becomes real to the reader it stops bringing us back to reality. Peyton then slips into an illusion. “He opened his eyes in the darkness and saw above him a gleam of light, but how distant, how inaccessible! He was still sinking, for the light became fainter and fainter until it was a mere glimmer. ” Through Peyton’s imaginary escape and evading of his captors, the beauty of nature is bestowed upon the reader in a sense of time that would in most cases not be applicable.
This is where time plays an important role and helps develop the story and allows the reader to experience and feel as if they are a part of the story. Peyton manages to fall into the stream and begins his escape. During the time of this escape he tries vigorously to evade death, Things taken for granted in our normal day life have exploded into great detail through Bierce’s descriptive writing, “He saw the very insects upon them: the locusts, the brilliant bodied flies, the gray spiders stretching their webs from twig to twig.
He noted the prismatic colors in all the dewdrops upon a million blades of grass. ”Then Bierce continues to describe with the fallowing lines, “The humming of the gnats that danced above the eddies of the stream, the beating of the dragon flies’ wings, the strokes of the water spiders’ legs, like oars which had lifted their boat — all these made audible music. ” Through the entire scene, time becomes to a very believable standstill.
Instead of the usual action escape scene, Bierce allows the reader to acknowledge the finer points of a near death experience. As time reaches its lowest point; it still pushes the reader of reality as Peyton fights to save his life. The sense of time is again reversed as Peyton dodges ammunition fire. Bierce increases the heart rate of the reader as the main character relies on pure luck to get away from the firing squad. Finally, Peyton escapes onto land.
And again, as soon as time permits, he is taking into full effect of his surroundings. Bierce compares sand to gems, and encapsulates the reader’s sense of smell with the lush wildlife of the forest. His descriptive scenes again force the reader to slow the sense of time and take in the environment to its fullest effect. This is essential for keeping the reader captivated, and keeping attention span of the reader so that the ending can appear out of nowhere. For the last time, Peyton’s daydream slows down.
His sole wish to be in his wife’s arm, his motive to escape, is at long last seconds away from occurring. The descriptive writing style of Bierce provides a sense of relief, and a happy ending. But without warning, Peyton’s senses do something very spontaneous for the current scene. Although it would seem as Bierce is describing Peyton as blacking out or maybe even being shot, the reader finds out in the next sentence that the latter half of the story was mostly a fantasy or daydream and Peyton has in fact been hung underneath Owl Creek Bridge.
Even during such an incredibly shocking event, Bierce describes the body of Peyton as swaying gently side to side. Confusion is replaced by awe, as the reader pieces together the real events of the story. In the end of the story the reader must take time and rethink the story that they have read. Bierce introduced so much thought and description into the story along with time that it is not only effective, but allows for a great ending.