An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
How we cite our quotes:
He looked a moment at his "unsteadfast footing," then let his gaze wander to the swirling water of the stream racing madly beneath his feet. A piece of dancing driftwood caught his attention and his eyes followed it down the current. How slowly it appeared to move! What a sluggish stream! (1.4)
Though the stream is moving rapidly, the piece of driftwood seems impervious to its current. The creek both races and moves sluggishly. How might this parallel the nature of time in the story?
Striking through the thought of his dear ones was sound which he could neither ignore nor understand, a sharp, distinct, metallic percussion like the stroke of a blacksmith's hammer upon the anvil; it had the same ringing quality. He wondered what it was, and whether immeasurably distant or near by—it seemed both. Its recurrence was regular, but as slow as the tolling of a death knell. He awaited each new stroke with impatience and—he knew not why—apprehension. The intervals of silence grew progressively longer; the delays became maddening. With their greater infrequency the sounds increased in strength and sharpness. They hurt his ear like the thrust of a knife; he feared he would shriek. What he heard was the ticking of his watch. (1.5)
To a man who is about to die, the ticking of a watch – a tangible representation of the passing of time – can become a horrifying death knell (a bell rung to signal death). Farquhar hears time expand and contract as he loses control over his life.
From this state he was awakened—ages later, it seemed to him—by the pain of a sharp pressure upon his throat, followed by a sense of suffocation. (3.1)
Time becomes somewhat arbitrary in the face of death, and Farquhar's perception of the passing of time begins to weaken shortly before his hanging. After his hanging, Farquhar's perception of time is no longer reliable.