Study Guide

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge Versions of Reality

By Ambrose Bierce

Versions of Reality

In many ways, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" is all about interpretation. Farquhar's understanding of the world around him and the reader's perception of what happens to Farquhar are closely tied to each other. Farquhar's version of reality becomes more and more problematic as the story progresses, as what happens to him becomes less believable. By focusing on Farquhar's version of reality, Bierce inspires us to question what about our lives is and is not real. If a man in the process of being hanged can imagine and experience an extremely realistic escape, what <em>can't</em> the human brain cook up?

Questions About Versions of Reality

  1. Does the narrator portray Farquhar's version of reality as the most valid version? If not, which is the most valid version?
  2. How does Farquhar interpret the world around him (physically, emotionally, intellectually)?   
  3. Why is Farquhar's death only revealed at the very end of the story?   
  4. If you were to rewrite the story from the perspective of one of the soldiers, what would it be like? How would one of the soldiers experience reality in the moments before and after Farquhar is hanged?

Chew on This

Peyton Farquhar's escape and death prove that you can never trust your perception of the world.

Farquhar's belief in his escape shows how powerful the human mind is and how it shapes reality.