What Is the Basic Plot of "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"?


Quick Answer

"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce is the story of Confederate sympathizer Peyton Farquhar and his vivid daydreaming in the moment of his execution by hanging. Farquhar's visions constitute a non-linear narrative in which he explores the reasons for his hanging, imagining a scenario in which he escapes and rejoins his family.

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Full Answer

Farquhar is brought to Owl Creek Bridge to be executed by hanging. While waiting, he reflects back on his having been lured into a trap by a Union scout masquerading as a Confederate soldier. Farquhar was enlisted to sabotage the bridge under false pretenses, then arrested for agreeing to the scheme.

Farquhar imagines escaping, falling into the river, freeing himself from his bonds and fleeing downstream to seek safety in the woods. He makes his way slowly back to his farm where he imagines his family waiting for him with open arms. The reader is left unaware that Farquhar is imagining these things.

Farquhar suffers a sharp pain in his neck and blacks out. It is revealed that he died on the bridge and that his entire escape was a production of his panicked mind during the fall from the bridge and his strangulation in the noose. He dies and is left to hang by his Union executioners.

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