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Select “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” or “The Gift of the Magi,” and perform one of the following activities upon it:Outline a central conflict of the plot, identify the climax, and identify who wins and who loses orDescribe and identify the primary setting (setting includes period), and identify the effect the setting has on the outcome of the story orList the characters, categorize them as flat or round, identify the protagonist(s) and the antagonist(s), and show why they are necessary for this story orClassify the tone of the story and identify its effect upon the reader orClassify the point of view and demonstrate why it is the best choice.I choose “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”, i attached this story

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Ambrose Bierce
Ambrose Bierce (1842–1914?), the youngest of nine children, was born in a log
cabin in Horse Cave Creek, Ohio. His father was a farmer, and Bierce had only one
year of formal education at the Kentucky Military Institute when he was seventeen.
During the Civil War he enlisted with the Ninth Indiana Infantry as a drummer boy.
Wounded in 1864, he left the army and went to live with a brother in San Francisco.
There he began his career as a newspaper writer, publishing his first story, “The
Haunted Valley,” in the Overland Magazine in 1871. When Bierce married the
daughter of a wealthy Nevada miner, his father-in-law gave the young couple a
wedding gift of $10,000, enabling them to live in London for five years. Homesick for
California, Bierce returned with his wife and wrote for various newspapers, including
William Randolph Hearst’s San Francisco Examiner. In the 1880s he became very
influential in his profession, although in literary circles outside California he was not
widely known. Then his wife left him, his two sons died tragically, and he became
embittered. In his seventies Bierce supervised publication of the twelve volumes of
his Collected Works, revisited the Civil War battlefields of his youth, and then
disappeared across the Mexican border. The Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes
imagined Bierce’s last months in the novel The Old Gringo (1985).
Bierce is known as the author of the philosophical epigrams in The Devil’s
Dictionary (1906), but his two volumes of short stories are his finest achievement as
a writer. He is considered a notable forerunner of American realists such as Stephen
Crane. “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” was included in Bierce’s first story
collection, In the Midst of Life, published privately in San Francisco under the
title Tales of Soldiers and Civilians (1891). His second collection, Can Such Things
Be?, was published two years later.
Bierce preferred the short story to the novel, defining the novel as a “short story
padded.” He modeled his creation of suspense leading up to a dramatic crisis after
the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, but Bierce described more realistic situations in his
fiction. Dreams, flashbacks, and hallucinations, as in “An Occurrence at Owl Creek
Bridge,” provided vivid images but no escape from the violent death that was
Bierce’s obsession.
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
A man stood upon a railroad bridge in Northern Alabama, looking down into the swift waters
twenty feet below. The man’s hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope
loosely encircled his neck. It was attached to a stout cross-timber above his head, and the slack
fell to the level of his knees. Some loose boards laid upon the sleepers supporting the metals of
the railway supplied a footing for him and his executioners — two private soldiers of the Federal
army, directed by a sergeant, who in civil life may have been a deputy sheriff. At a short remove
upon the same temporary platform was an officer in the uniform of his rank, armed. He was a
captain. A sentinel at each end of the bridge stood with his rifle in the position known as
“support,” that is to say, vertical in front of the left shoulder, the hammer resting on the forearm
thrown straight across the chest — a formal and unnatural position, enforcing an erect carriage of
the body. It did not appear to be the duty of these two men to know what was occurring at the
centre of the bridge; they merely blockaded the two ends of the foot plank which traversed it.
Beyond one of the sentinels nobody was in sight; the railroad ran straight away into a forest
for a hundred yards, then, curving, was lost to view. Doubtless there was an outpost further
along. The other bank of the stream was open ground — a gentle acclivity crowned with a
stockade of vertical tree trunks, loop-holed for rifles, with a single embrasure through which
protruded the muzzle of a brass cannon commanding the bridge. Midway of the slope between
bridge and fort were the spectators — a single company of infantry in line, at “parade rest,” the
butts of the rifles on the ground, the barrels inclining slightly backward against the right
shoulder, the hands crossed upon the stock. A lieutenant stood at the right of the line, the point of
his sword upon the ground, his left hand resting upon his right. Excepting the group of four at the
centre of the bridge not a man moved. The company faced the bridge, staring stonily, motionless.
The sentinels, facing the banks of the stream, might have been statues to adorn the bridge. The
captain stood with folded arms, silent, observing the work of his subordinates but making no
sign. 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. In the code of military etiquette
silence and fixity are forms of deference.
The man who was engaged in being hanged was apparently about thirty-five years of age. He
was a civilian, if one might judge from his dress, which was that of a planter. His features were
good — a straight nose, firm mouth, broad forehead, from which his long, dark hair was combed
straight back, falling behind his ears to the collar of his well-fitted frock coat. He wore a
moustache and pointed beard, but no whiskers; his eyes were large and dark grey and had a
kindly expression which one would hardly have expected in one whose neck
was in the hemp. Evidently this was no vulgar assassin. The liberal military code makes
provision for hanging many kinds of people, and gentlemen are not excluded.
The preparations being complete, the two private soldiers stepped aside and each drew
away the plank upon which he had been standing. The sergeant turned to the captain, saluted
and placed himself immediately behind that officer, who in turn moved apart one pace. These
movements left the condemned man and the sergeant standing on the two ends of the same
plank, which spanned three of the cross-ties of the bridge. The end upon which the civilian
stood almost, but not quite, reached a fourth. This plank had been held in place by the weight
of the captain; it was now held by that of the sergeant. At a signal from the former, the latter
would step aside, the plank would tilt and the condemned man go down between two ties.
The arrangement commended itself to his judgment as simple and effective. His face had not
been covered nor his eyes bandaged. 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!
He closed his eyes in order to fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children. The water,
touched to gold by the early sun, the brooding mists under the banks at some distance down
the stream, the fort, the soldiers, the piece of driftwood — all had distracted him. And now
he became conscious of a new disturbance. Striking through the thought of his dear ones was
a 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 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.
He unclosed his eyes and saw again the water below him. “If I could free my hands,” he
thought, “I might throw off the noose and spring into the stream. By diving I could evade the
bullets, and, swimming vigorously, reach the bank, take to the woods, and get away home.
My home, thank God, is as yet outside their lines; my wife and little ones are still beyond the
invader’s farthest advance.”
As these thoughts, which have here to be set down in words, were flashed into the
doomed man’s brain rather than evolved from it, the captain nodded to the sergeant. The
sergeant stepped aside.
Peyton Farquhar was a well-to-do planter, of an old and highly respected Alabama family.
Being a slave owner, and, like other slave owners, a politician, he was naturally an original
secessionist and ardently devoted to the Southern cause. Circumstances of an imperious
nature which it is unnecessary to relate here, had prevented him from taking service with the
gallant army which had fought the disastrous campaigns ending with the fall of Corinth, and
he chafed under the inglorious restraint, longing for the release of his energies, the larger life
of the soldier, the opportunity for distinction. That opportunity, he felt, would come, as it
comes to all in war time. Meanwhile he did what he could. No service was too humble for
him to perform in aid of the South, no adventure too perilous for him to undertake if
consistent with the character of a civilian who was at heart a soldier, and who in good faith
and without too much qualification assented to at least a part of the frankly villainous dictum
that all is fair in love and war.
One evening while Farquhar and his wife were sitting on a rustic bench near the entrance
to his grounds, a grey-clad soldier rode up to the gate and asked for a drink of water. Mrs.
Farquhar was only too happy to serve him with her own white hands. While she was gone to
fetch the water, her husband approached the dusty horseman and inquired eagerly for news
from the front.
“The Yanks are repairing the railroads,” said the man, “and are getting ready for another
advance. They have reached the Owl Creek bridge, put it in order, and built a stockade on the
other bank. The commandant has issued an order, which is posted everywhere, declaring that
any civilian caught interfering with the railroad, its bridges, tunnels, or trains, will be
summarily hanged. I saw the order.”
“How far is it to the Owl Creek bridge?” Farquhar asked.
“About thirty miles.”
“Is there no force on this side the creek?”
“Only a picket post half a mile out, on the railroad, and a single sentinel at this end of the
“Suppose a man — a civilian and student of hanging — should elude the picket post and
perhaps get the better of the sentinel,” said Farquhar, smiling, “what could he accomplish?”
The soldier reflected. “I was there a month ago,” he replied. “I observed that the flood of
last winter had lodged a great quantity of driftwood against the wooden pier at this end of the
bridge. It is now dry and would burn like tow.”
The lady had now brought the water, which the soldier drank. He thanked her
ceremoniously, bowed to her husband, and rode away. An hour later, after nightfall, he
repassed the plantation, going northward in the direction from which he had come. He was a
Federal scout.
As Peyton Farquhar fell straight downward through the bridge, he lost consciousness and
was as one already dead. 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. Keen,
poignant agonies seemed to shoot from his neck downward through every fibre of his body
and limbs. These pains appeared to flash along well-defined lines of ramification, and to beat
with an inconceivably rapid periodicity. They seemed like streams of pulsating fire heating
him to an intolerable temperature. As to his head, he was conscious of nothing but a feeling
of fullness — of congestion. These sensations were unaccompanied by thought. The
intellectual part of his nature was already effaced; he had power only to feel, and feeling was
torment. He was conscious of motion. 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. The power of thought was restored; he knew that the rope had broken and
he had fallen into the stream. There was no additional strangulation; the noose about his neck
was already suffocating him, and kept the water from his lungs. To die of hanging at the
bottom of a river — the idea seemed to him ludicrous. He opened his eyes in the blackness
and saw above him a gleam of light, but how distant, how inaccessible! He was still sinking,
for the light became fainter and fainter until it was a mere glimmer. Then it began to grow
and brighten, and he knew that he was rising toward the surface — knew it with reluctance,
for he was now very comfortable. “To be hanged and drowned,” he thought, “that is not so
bad; but I do not wish to be shot. No; I will not be shot; that is not fair.”
He was not conscious of an effort, but a sharp pain in his wrist apprised him that he was
trying to free his hands. He gave the struggle his attention, as an idler might observe the feat
of a juggler, without interest in the outcome. What splendid effort! — what magnificent,
what superhuman strength! Ah, that was a fine endeavor! Bravo! The cord fell away; his
arms parted and floated upward, the hands dimly seen on each side in the growing light. He
watched them with a new interest as first one and then the other pounced upon the noose at
his neck. They tore it away and thrust it fiercely aside, its undulations resembling those of a
water-snake. “Put it back, put it back!” He thought he shouted these words to his hands, for
the undoing of the noose had been succeeded by the direst pang which he had yet
experienced. His neck ached horribly; his brain was on fire; his heart, which had been
fluttering faintly, gave a great leap, trying to force itself out at his mouth. His whole body
was racked and wrenched with an insupportable anguish! But his disobedient hands gave no
heed to the command. They beat the water vigorously with quick, downward strokes, forcing
him to the surface. He felt his head emerge; his eyes were blinded by the sunlight; his chest
expanded convulsively, and with a supreme and crowning agony his lungs engulfed a great
draught of air, which instantly he expelled in a shriek!
He was now in full possession of his physical senses. They were, indeed, preternaturally
keen and alert. Something in the awful disturbance of his organic system had so exalted and
refined them that they made record of things never before perceived. He felt the ripples upon
his face and heard their separate sounds as they struck. He looked at the forest on the bank of
the stream, saw the individual trees, the leaves and the veining of each leaf — saw the very
insects upon them, the locusts, the brilliant-bodied flies, the grey spiders stretching their
webs from twig to twig. He noted the prismatic colors in all the dewdrops upon a million
blades of grass. The humming of the gnats that danced above the eddies of the stream, the
beating of the dragon flies’ wings, the strokes of the water spiders’ legs, like oars which had
lifted their boat — all these made audible music. A fish slid along beneath his eyes and he
heard the rush of its body parting the water.
He had come to the surface facing down the stream; in a moment the visible world
seemed to wheel slowly round, himself the pivotal point, and he saw the bridge, the fort, the
soldiers upon the bridge, the captain, the sergeant, the two privates, his executioners. They
were in silhouette against the blue sky. They shouted and gesticulated, pointing at him; the
captain had drawn his pistol, but did not fire; the others were unarmed. Their movements
were grotesque and horrible, their forms gigantic.
Suddenly he heard a sharp report and something struck the water smartly within a few
inches of his head, spattering his face with spray. He heard a second report, and saw one of
the sentinels with his rifle at his shoulder, a light cloud of blue smoke rising from the muzzle.
The man in the water saw the eye of the man on the bridge gazing into his own through the
sights of the rifle. He observed that it was a grey eye, and remembered having read that grey
eyes were keenest and that all famous marksmen had them. Nevertheless, this one had
A counter swirl had caught Farquhar and turned him half round; he was again looking
into the forest on the bank opposite the fort. The sound of a clear, high voice in a
monotonous singsong now rang out behind him and came across the water with a distinctness
that pierced and subdued all other sounds, even the beating of the ripples in his ears.
Although no soldier, he had frequented camps enough to know the dread significance of that
deliberate, drawling, aspirated chant; the lieutenant on shore was taking a part in the
morning’s work. How coldly and pitilessly — with what an even, calm intonation, presaging
and enforcing tranquility in the men — with what accurately-measured intervals fell those
cruel words:
“Attention, company. . . . Shoulder arms. . . . Ready. . . . Aim. . . . Fire.”
Farquhar dived — dived as deeply as he could. The water roared in his ears like the voice
of Niagara, yet he heard the dulled thunder of the volley, and rising again toward the surface,
met shining bits of metal, singularly flattened, oscillating slowly downward. Some of them
touched him on the face and hands, then fell away, continuing their descent. One lodged
between his collar and neck; it was uncomfortably warm, and he snatched it out.
As he rose to the surface, gasping for breath, he saw that he had been a long time under
water; he was perceptibly farther down stream — nearer to safety. The soldiers had almost
finished reloading; the metal ramrods flashed all at once in the sunshine as they were drawn
from the barrels, turned in the air, and thrust into their sockets. The two sentinels fired again,
independently and ineffectually.
The hunted man saw all this over his shoulder; he was now swimming vigorously with
the current. His brain was as energetic as his arms and legs; he thought with the rapidity of
“The officer,” he reasoned, “will not make the martinet’s error a second time. It is as easy
to dodge a volley as a single shot. He has probably already given the command to fire at will.
God help me, I cannot dodge them all!”
An appalling splash within two yards of him, followed by a loud rushing
sound, diminuendo, which seemed to travel back through the air to the fort and died in an
explosion which stirred the very river to its deeps! A rising sheet of water, which curved over
him, fell down upon him, blinded him, strangled him! The cannon had taken a hand in the
game. As he shook his head free from the commotion of the smitten water, he heard the
deflected shot humming through the air ahead, and in an instant it was cracking and
smashing the branches in the forest beyond.
“They will not do that again,” he thought; “the next time they will use a charge of grape.
I must keep my eye upon the gun; the smoke will apprise me — the report arrives too late; it
lags behind the missile. It is a good gun.”
Suddenly he felt himself whirled round and round — spinning like a top. The water, the
banks, the forest, the now distant bridge, fort, and men — all were commingled and blurred.
Objects were represented by their colors only; circular horizontal streaks of color — that was
all he saw. He had been caught in a vortex and was being whirled on with a velocity of
ad …
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