Ambrose Bierce was born on June 24, 1842 in Miegs County, Ohio, where he was the tenth child out of thirteen children. Bierce moved out at the age of 15 to become a newspaper apprentice where he started his journalism career and later joined the military during the Civil War. Ambrose Bierce fought in the bloodiest battle during the Civil war and was struck by a bullet. Luckily, the bullet did not penetrate his skull. Soon after the Civil War ended, Ambrose Bierce moved to San Francisco to continue his journalistic dream and write new novels about the wild west.
Bierce merged his stories into hallucinatory and the paranormal with everyday events attempting to catch the intensity of extreme human experience. Bierce avoided typical happy endings and strived to produce horrific stories that would remain in the readers mind for a lengthy period of time. Ambrose Bierce has written a unique story called “An Occurance at Owl Creek” that addresses the realism setting such as the bridge in Alabama during the Civil War. “ Occurence at Owl Creek” consists of three parts that are not in chronological order. The first part is about Peyton Farquhar captured by sentimental soldiers planning his death by tying a rope around his neck. The second part is before the climax happened in which a thirsty soldier warned Peyton about the yankees repairing the railroad. Lastly, Peyton Farquhar is executed and goes through an episode of a psycodelic state of mind known as DMT which is a natural hallucinagen chemical in the brain that is produced during death. Peyton Farquhar experiences flashbacks of his loved ones and thought he escaped the execution during his dmt trip. Unfortunately, Peyton Farquhar faces an impossible situation he does not appear to have any chance of escaping.
At the beginning of part one, an innocent civilian named Peyton Farquhar is captured by three sentimental soldiers who loopholed his neck with a piece rope upon the railroad bridge in Northern Alabama while the sargaent is standing on a plank prolonging his execution. during a life or death situation, peyton farquhar has flashbacks of his loved ones and thinks of divergent approaches on escaping his death sentence. Similarly to the author of Ambrose Bierces’ near death experience during the Civil War when he got shot in the head; he narrates the fearful thoughts that rush through the character of Peyton Farquhar when the rope is being tied around his neck. Countless scenarios of horror films like saw and final destination relate back to the story of “Occurrence at Owl Creek” with the perspective of life or death situations. The tagline of the 1979 film Phantasm, “If this one doesn’t scare you, you’re already dead!” plays a major part of horror films implying that the more frightful scenarios we experience in theatres, the more the audience is aware of the scary scenes that are played during horror films. Like the Tagline quote of Phantasm, Peyton Farquhar is not scared about the Yankees after further warning from the sentimental soldier.
In Part two of “Occurrence in Owl Creek” the play rewinds back to the reasoning of how Peyton Farquhar was captured by the Yankees who were repairing the railroads. Peyton Farquhar is a planter from Alabama who has been warned by a thirsty soldier on a horse and he said, “the commandment has issued an order, which is posted everywhere, declaring that any civilian caught interfering with the railroad, its bridges and tunnels, or trains will be summarily hanged. I saw the order (Bierce 397).”
Although Peyton Farquhar has been warned by the sentimental soldier, he still decides to travel north of the Alabama bridge as the yankees are repairing the railroad. Peyton Farquhar does not hesitate after cautious warnings from the sentimental soldier which could later result in further punishment by the Yankees.
Part III continues back to the climax of part I. Peyton Farquhar was captured by the Yankees and was later executed even though the soldier warned him. Peyton Farquhars stubborness resulted in a life ending punishment. Throughout part III, the narrator of the story made it seem like Peyton Farquhar escaped, but it was the after life episode that he was experiencing. Before Peyton Farquhars death, his daydream resulted in hopefullness by dodging bullets and cannons while swimming vigorously along the river current. As soon as Peyton Farquhar swam safely to the bank he rushes back to his loved ones full of joy. As he hugs his wife, “a blinding white light blazes all about him, with a sound like the shock of a cannon then all is darkness and silence (Bierce 401)!” This was the DMT effect Peyton Farquhar experiences after his death. DMT is a natural hallucinogen chemical in the brain that is produced after you die similarly to the psychoactive drug, LSD. At the end of part III, Peyton Farquhar has made a distinction between waking or sleeping during his final destination. Unfortunately, after hugging his loved ones it becomes darkness and silence of eternal sleeping.
In conclusion, “Occurrence at Owl Creek” is a short story that consists of three parts that are not in chronological order. Part I is the climax of the short story when the author of the story skipped part one on how it led up to such an episode of anxiety and terror in which Peyton Farquhar was captured by the northern army. Part II is the rise in which it tells the story before the conflict happened between the yankee soldiers and Peyton Farquhar. The soldier warned Peyton farquhar about the punishment of being caught by the yankees. Part III is the fall in which Peyton Farquhar experiences hopefullness of seeing his family and escaping death. Unfortunately, The author Ambrose Bierce, avoided happy endings and made it a depressing ending. Sadly, death is something we all will face later in life.
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