Ambrose Bierce"s most famed story, An event at Owl Creek leg (1890) is a masterfully do story the everyone have to read. Us hope the our study guide is specifically useful for teachers and students.

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Here"s the story: An event at Owl Creek Bridge, Character analysis & Summary, Genre & Themes, historical Context, Quotes, discussion Questions, advantageous Links, and also Notes/Teacher Comments

Southern Farmer throughout the civil War

Character Analysis

Peyton Farquhar - very first introduced come the leader as "A Man." Bierce takes his time relenten Farquhar who is to be hanged from a bridge, unfolding hints slowly around Farquhar"s identity and status, automatically providing one engaging "hook" to draw in the reader. Gradually, we discover that he"s no a soldier and he"s being hanged for crimes versus the Union. Later, the is explained as a 35 year old civilian, a southerly planter with great looks, doing not have the look at of a "vulgar assassin."

Union soldiers - The captain, an initial lieutenant, and sentinels room charged v executing Farquhar on the Owl Creek Bridge. The rest of the agency is totally silent, respecting the rules because that observing brewing death.

Farquhar"s mam - despite never showing up in the story, she to represent the safety and comfort the home, which Farquhar determined to jeopardize as soon as he attempted to sabotage the Union"s developments by burn the bridge. In ~ the finish of the story, Farquhar has a vision the reuniting with her, as component of his "white light" online escape. Bierce may likewise intend to have actually her stand for Heaven or spirituality resilience.

Union reconnaissance posing together Confederate - The spy disguised as a Confederate soldier who informed Farquhar about the Union"s arrangement to advancement at the Owl Creek Bridge, and also planted the idea the Farquhar burn it under to prevent them.

Plot Summary

The story is split into three sections. In the very first section, we learn that a man is around to be hanged by a Union captain in the center of a leg over raging water in north Alabama, but he doesn"t look favor a "vulgar assassin." We uncover out the man is Peyton Farquhar, a well-off southerly Planter who may have been a captain, or at least sympathetic to the Confederacy. Just as the soldiers action aside come commence his hanging and also Farquhar deserve to only hear the sound of his watch ticking, we move to the second section, in which we gain Farquhar"s back-story. Farquhar request a soldier who showed up to be from the Confederate Army about news indigenous the front, and also learned the the Northern forces were repairing the railroads and nearing Owl Creek bridge to development their forces. The soldier, who was actually a Union soldier in disguise, said Farquhar that any type of civilian captured interfering v the North"s efforts would it is in hanged, and likewise mentioned just how easy it would be to collection the bridge on fire. In the third and critical section, we are earlier at the scene of the hanging. It seems that Farquhar is awakened by the cold existing of the river, having lost awareness after the noose broke and he fell from the bridge. His executioners are firign at him from the bridge, that suffers a gunshot wound, comes up for air, dives earlier under, just to see a cannonball land within two yards. He think he"s doomed, however then appears to be ejected from the river onto a bank, the end of sight and firing range. However then the hears gunshots, escapes through the forest, acquisition backroads to go back to his home. He appears to greet his wife, but then feels a sharp punch on his neck, sees a blinking white light, and also all falls to silence and also darkness. The end of the story reveals that Farquhar"s damaged body is quiet swinging from the side of Owl Creek Bridge, wherein he died, after ~ all.

A pendulum is deeply symbolic in this story


Civil War quick stories genre, historic fiction in their realistic portrayal of really events, soldiers, and also battles. Since Bierce served in the War, he combination his gifted creating abilities with his credible and also dramatic story that brought the complexities of war to life for his readers.


Defenders - A human being must be ready to safeguard his way of life, culture, and family as soon as threatened by one enemy-- the question is: at what cost?

Safety versus danger - Safety and also home (no action, suspect the role of "Copperhead" through refusing come fight) is contrasted sharply with danger and also fighting the adversary (action, reckless vigilantism)

Time - A continuous theme Bierce uses throughout the story, both in the stimulate of events (we begin the story v his hanging, climate in the next section find out why is being hung). Time slows under the closer he comes to death (at his hanging, Bierce take away a the majority of time to describe every detail at the bridge, but in the second section, all the occasions leading up to that moment go through quickly). Time relates to Farquahar"s emotions. The "pendulum" to represent the swing of his feelings native fear, grief, loss, love, courage to escape. It"s a prize of time (pendulums can regulate clocks, like Farquhar"s watch)

Motion: one more prevailing design template Bierce provides to define the river, Farquhar"s emotions, and his absence of movement (bound to it is in hanged), and also his sudden and also fateful activity falling from the leg after his neck snaps and he"s dead. Finally, his vision the his very own escape, swimming and diving in the flow dodging gunshots, then movement towards the vision that his wife.

Sound: Bierce explains the silence by amplifying details sounds (like the ticking the Farquhar"s watch), the raging river, when the soldiers, guns and also cannon stay silent. Sound plays a function again at the end: his vision the the white light "blazes all about him with a sound like the shock of a cannon-- then all is darkness and also silence!"

Life after ~ death: The comfort of the "White Light": an especially in the confront of certain death, we have actually the strength to visualize our very own escape to safety and security (belief in the after-life or Heaven, inspite the the fact of what taken place to our human body on Earth.)

Rules specify actions: Soldiers adhere to the military"s rules of conduct for hanging one enemy; the rules also prescribe silence in respect of Death. Farquahar perceives his very own duty or "rules" because that defending the Confederacy.

Tidball"s Battery, fair Oaks, Virginia, 1862

To much better understand the historical context that the events during the Civil battle leading up to this story, read about the particular Northern Alabama Civil battle battles, testimonial maps, and also reminiscences of day-to-day life ~ above a southern plantation during the War. The Franklin-Nashville campaign arisen in 1864, led by basic Robert S. Grander (US) and also General man B. Hood (Confederates).

The American Civil battle is filled v stories the traitorous spies, or civilians caught and hung for their actions versus the enemy. Spying in the civil War

President Lincoln enforced the Lieber code in April that 1863, which were instructions for just how soldiers need to conduct themselves in wartime, such together the moral treatment of populations in inhabited terrorities, prisoners of war, and the lawfulness that emancipating slaves. In Bierce"s story, the federal soldiers are following a strict password of conduct.

Ambrose Bierce

Explain what the following estimates mean and how they relate to the story:

“Death is a dignitary who as soon as he comes announced is come be received with official manifestations of respect, also by those most familiar with him.”

“The intellectual component of his nature was currently effaced; he had actually power only to feel, and feeling to be torment.”

“Encompassed in a luminous cloud, of i m sorry he was now just the fiery heart, without product substance, he swung with unthinkable arcs that oscillation, like a large pendulum.”

“His totality body to be racked and wrenched v an insupportable anguish! however his disobedient hands provided no heed come the command.”

“An appalling splash within two yards of him was followed by a loud, rushing sound, diminuendo, which seemed to travel ago through the air come the fort and also died in one explosion which stirred the an extremely river to its deeps!”

“Doubtless, despite his suffering, he had fallen asleep while walking, for currently he sees one more scene--perhaps he has merely recovered native a delirium. The stands in ~ the gate of his very own home. Every is together he left it, and also all bright and beautiful in the morning sunshine.”

“As the is about to clasp she he feeling a stunning blow upon the ago of the neck; a blinding white light blazes all about him v a sound prefer the shock that a cannon--then every is darkness and silence!”

Confederate spy, Henry cutting board Harrison

1. Ambrose Bierce was one of the only major author to check out combat during the polite War. He served in the 9th Regiment, Indiana Volunteers. What proof can you provide that "he to know what that is talk about" in his telling of the story? do you detect any kind of bias in his writing, does his donate the Union over the Confederates, or is the seemingly impartial?

2. Just how does Bierce"s methodic writing layout of providing thorough descriptions in a quiet, slow, suspenseful manner impact the reader? provide examples (like exactly how he explains the rifles in "support" position, or the sound the his own watch ticking).

3. Describe Bierce"s literary an approach using foreshadowing and its result of fully engaging his reader.

4. Explain the metaphor that "Death is a dignitary" in the an initial paragraph.

5. What examples of military etiquette or rules of command are explained in the story? Why are these important?

6. What carry out the bridge and the fast-moving water below represent? explain the symbolic definition of the loosened boards and also "unsteady footing."

7. Describe what Farquhar"s mam represents? Why does he disapprove what she to represent in his reckless mission come suppress Union forces?

8. Do we recognize whether Farquhar actually melted the bridge? though we space told the Union reconnaissance planted the idea in Farquhar"s mind come burn the bridge and also then must have reported Farquar"s treason which resulted in his sentence to be hanged, just how do we recognize he in reality committed the crime and also deserves to it is in hanged?

9. Define the transcendental suffer of Farquhar willing the noose to give method and envisioning his escape right into the eight of his wife and safety, climate the "white light" rather than the reality of his corpse"s broken bones that death.

10. Phone call the story using the very same sequence of events, yet from the Union Captain"s suggest of view.

11. Define the symbolism that the "pendulum" (first i of ar III) and also how it relates to time, the hanging, his emotions.

See more: 1998 Lincoln Mark Viii Air Suspension Problems, Lincoln Mark Viii Questions

12. The commonwealth troops were compelled to comply with the Liber Code, indict for militaries in the field, applied by chairman Lincoln in 1863. Talk about the soldiers" conduct explained in the story. Did they follow the letter of the Lieber Code?

Essay concern #1: study the term "Copperhead" (used to describe a north Democrat that opposed fighting in the civil War and also demanded prompt peace). The modern equivalent is dubbed "conscientious objector." go Farquhar"s actions serve the Confederates in the exact same way, more, or less, than had he enlisted and fought together a soldier? walk Bierce offer any kind of clues as to why Farquhar didn"t serve as a soldier?

Essay question #2: to compare this story to one more Civil battle Story, either by Ambrose Bierce or a different author. Suggestion: The Story of a Conscience. Compare your themes, tone, literary techniques, and context within the Civil war genre.

Biography and Works by Ambrose Bierce

Lesson plan for one Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge: Heroes or Cowards?

Bierce"s early on Life and also Military Career

Foreshadowing and also Tone in An occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

Improve her Civil war Vocabulary

Spying in the Civil battle (it occurred in more ways 보다 you could think)

The Ambrose Bierce task annotated text

American literary works Lesson Plans: Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, and also the Unreliable Biographers

Civil war Stories, Poems, and Novels

Civil battle Songs

American background in Literature

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