An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
How we cite our quotes:
"Death is a dignitary who when he comes announced is to be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him." (1.2)
It is the job of soldiers to kill, and the soldiers in Bierce's story are no strangers to death. Through personification, the narrator makes death another character in the story. Though the soldiers have witnessed death numerous times, their interaction with the "dignitary" death is uniquely solemn and formal.
As Peyton Farquhar fell straight downward through the bridge he lost consciousness and was as one already dead. (3.1)
Very little separates life from death if unconsciousness is basically an identical experience. Peyton's post-hanging existence is ambiguous from the start.
Encompassed in a luminous cloud, of which he was now merely the fiery heart, without material substance, he swung through unthinkable arcs of oscillation, like a vast pendulum. Then all at once, with terrible suddenness, the light about him shot upward with the noise of a loud splash; a frightful roaring was in his ears, and all was cold and dark. (3.1)
When Farquhar awakens after being hanged, it seems as though he has already, as Hamlet would put it, shuffled off the mortal coil. Dying is often associated with darkness and light. It seems important that life is so similar to death during Farquhar's escape.