Study Guide

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge Time

By Ambrose Bierce


You don't need us to tell you that time doesn't always seem to move at the same pace. When you're eagerly awaiting a text from your crush, time can move <em>sooo </em>slowly. But when you're cramming for the AP US History exam the night before the test, time simply seems to disappear. Just like in real life, time is very fluid in this story. At certain points, time races along at dizzying speeds, but at others, it crawls along at a snail's pace. "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" seems to ask us how we experience time. It seems to depend entirely on what a person is going through. How do <em>you</em> think time would pass in the seconds before being hanged? By going against a military order, Farquhar becomes subject to military time. Though his imagination allows him to temporarily escape the highly regimented time set by the soldiers, his body never breaks free.

Questions About Time

  1. How does time affect the structure of the story? Why do you think Part 2 travels back in time?
  2. Does the narration of Farquhar's journey home parallel the amount of time it takes him to die?
  3. What is the significance of Farquhar's reaction to his watch?
  4. Look at the tense changes in the story. Why do you think the narrator sometimes switches from past tense to present tense?
  5. If you could get inside the minds of the soldiers, how do you think they experience the moments before and after executing Farquhar? Do you think time moves at the same pace for everyone in the story?

Chew on This

Time loses all meaning as Farquhar approaches death.

Farquhar's understanding of time comes into conflict with military time, and military time wins.