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An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

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An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
An occurrence
Author
Ambrose Bierce
Publisher
Publish Date
1891

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge is a Civil War-era short story written by Ambrose Bierce in 1886.

The first part of the story begins with a description of a man about to be hung from Owl Creek Bridge by two soldiers. In the moment's before the man's death, time seems to distort and slow down. The man considers the possibility that if the rope snapped, he could escape death by swimming in the river below him. The second part of the story is a flashback to the man, now named Peyton Farquhar, as an Alabama planter longing to aid the Confederate army in whatever way possible. A passing soldier says that Farquhar can destroy the Owl Creek Bridge, in order to help stop the Northern advance. However, the final sentence of the passage reveals the man to be a Union scout, unbeknowst to Farquhar. The third and final part of the story describes Farquhar's hanging, and the sensations he feels. As he is hanging from the Owl Creek Bridge, the rope snaps and Farquhar falls into the river below. Removing the noose and evading the soldiers' bullets, Farquhar swims to shore and disappears into the forest. After walking a full day, Farquhar arrives back at his house. As he is about to embrace his wife, a blinding white light surrounds Farquhar followed by silence. The narrator then reveals that Farquhar is in fact dead in the noose hanging below Owl Creek Bridge, having hallucinated the whole episode in the seconds before his death.

Bierce was a news correspondent during the Civil War and the author of The Devil's Dictionary, which created his reputation as one of history's great cynics. In 1913, he walked into Mexico and was never heard from again.

In Lost

There could be some parallels drawn between the survivors and this book; namely due to the fact that both feature extensive flashbacks. Also, the fact that both stories feature people who are trapped somewhere and only want to go home. This could also be featured with some survivors' "dreams". The Union Scout posing as a Confederate Soldier could be seen as the Others who infiltrated the survivors camps. Alternatively, this book could be a reference by the writers of Lost to the hallucination theory.

Peyton Farquhar's experience in the woods shortly before death is mirrored in LOST. "The wood on either side was full of singular noises, among which - once, twice, and again - he distinctly heard whispers in an unknown tongue."

This reference can also be seen as a "wink" to controversial critiques of the storytelling techniques used by "Lost" writers. From enotes.com. "While An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" has been occasionally faulted for what some critics consider its gimmicky ending, it has nonetheless been lauded as an example of technical brilliance and innovative narration as well as for its examination of such themes as the nature of time and the complexities of human cognition."


The book was seen in "The Long Con".

Similarities and shared themes

Trivia

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge was the only externally produced episode of the original Twilight Zone series, a series which the writers have repeatedly credited as being influential in the Lost series. Rod Serling purchased the rights to the short film after its Grand Prix win at the Cannes Film Festival in 1962.

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