An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge is a short story written by Ambrose Bierce, a notable American author known for his dark and often macabre tales. Published in 1890, the story is set during the American Civil War and centres around a Confederate sympathiser named Peyton Farquhar.

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  • The story is set in the midst of the American Civil War (1861-1865), a brutal conflict between the Northern Union and the Southern Confederacy over issues including slavery and states’ rights.
  • Peyton Farquhar is a Southern planter who sympathises with the Confederacy and desires to support their cause.

Narrative Writing Prompts


  • The story begins with Peyton Farquhar, a man sentenced to death by hanging by Union soldiers. He is standing on a bridge in Alabama, Owl Creek Bridge, with his hands tied behind his back and a noose around his neck.
  • Just as the soldiers are about to execute him, Farquhar’s mind races and he envisions a daring escape. He imagines freeing himself from the noose, diving into the river below, and swimming to freedom. His vivid mental journey takes up most of the story.
  • As Farquhar’s escape unfolds in his mind, he encounters various obstacles and dangers. He manages to evade capture, struggle through a dense forest, and eventually approaches his home, where his wife awaiAmbrose ts.
  • The story concludes with a sudden and shocking twist. As Farquhar is about to embrace his wife, the narrative reveals that this entire escape has been a delusion. In reality, the rope around Farquhar’s neck snaps, and he falls to his death, hanging from the Owl Creek Bridge.


  • “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” is known for its manipulation of time and reality. The story employs a non-linear narrative, where Farquhar’s imagined escape is juxtaposed with the present moment of his execution. This narrative technique creates a sense of suspense and disorientation, leading readers to question the boundaries between reality and illusion.
  • Bierce’s story raises themes of the psychological effects of war, the futility of human endeavours, and the subjective nature of reality. Farquhar’s vivid escape fantasy reflects his desperate desire to avoid the grim reality of his impending execution and return to his family.
  • The story’s abrupt ending serves as a stark reminder of the brutality of war and the ultimate inevitability of death. Farquhar’s escape is ultimately a futile attempt to defy the grim reality of his circumstances.
  • “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” is celebrated for its masterful use of narrative structure and its exploration of the human psyche under extreme duress. It is a classic work of American literature that continues to captivate readers with its gripping storytelling and thought-provoking themes.

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