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An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge Summary Prepared by an Expert

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This is a story by Ambrose Bierce about how a man who was being hanged dreams of his escape at the moment of his death. Here is the detailed synopsis of the story.

The Plot Overview of Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

This story is divided into three sections. The first is the opening scene that presents the facts. Then we get a flashback that provides some history and then the conclusion. The story begins with Peyton standing on a bridge. He has his wrists tied behind him and a noose placed around his neck and tied to a beam above him. There are two soldiers near him, a Sergeant of the Northern Army and a captain, all waiting for the execution of this man. The two soldiers complete the preparations to hang him and remove the planks that they had been standing on. The sergeant awaits the captain’s signal to step away and let Farquhar dangle from the edge. Peyton Farquhar stares at a piece of wood that was floating along the stream. He closes his eyes so that he can focus on his current predicament and gives way to his wife and children in his thoughts.  His watch ticks loudly. He stares at the water again, this time imagining that he has managed to free his arms, removed the noose and even plunged into the stream. He then swims to his freedom and gets home, safe from the enemies. The captain nods the signal and the Sergeant steps away from the board.

In the second section, we get to know that Peyton Farquhar was a great planter who had his devotions set to the south. He was not able to join the army of the Confederates but still wanted to help in any way he could. One past evening, Peyton and his beloved wife sat at the edge of the property they owned and a soldier in grey came up to them seeking some water. His wife fetched it, and Peyton discussed the events of the front. He was told that the forces from the North anticipated another advance by repairing the railroads. They had already made it to Owl Creek bridge. He then tells Peyton that civilians interfering with the efforts of the north were hanged. On inquiry, Peyton realizes that interference would be in the form of setting some driftwood piled near the bridge on fire. The man rides off. He then passes after an hour headed in the opposite direction.

The third section takes us back to the hanging. Peyton becomes unconscious as he goes down the bridge side. He then awakens from pain surging through his body and realizes that the noose broke and sent him into the stream. He is paranoid that he will get shot by the soldiers if they see him in the water. He removes the noose and endures much pain. The executioners are still on the bridge. He gets shot at by a marksman twice and then hears the men being ordered to fire. He dives under to evade the shots.

Peyton removes a metal piece that had stuck in his neck. He waits for the soldiers to reload and then goes up for air. He knows that much gunfire is coming his way. Suddenly a cannonball lands so close to him and sends a large spray of water that lands on him. Deflected the cannonball goes on to the trees that were around. Peyton then realizes that they will fire grapeshot from their cannon instead of the single cannonball. He knows he will be required to anticipate the shot. He gets launched into a spin and then sent from the stream to a riverbank that was well beyond the range and sight of the gunfire and his executioners.

He is overjoyed and weeps to look at the landscape ahead of him. He had even lost the desire to increase the distance between himself and the pursuers. A deflected grapeshot zooms over him. He goes into the forest and starts walking with the sun guiding his way. Thoughts about his family give him the strength to continue. He arrives at the entrance to his house. As he gets towards the verandah, his wife comes down to meet him. He reaches out to embrace her, but suddenly there is a sharp pain in his neck. A white light blinds everything around him, and then there is darkness and silence all around him. Peyton Farquhar was dead. His body was still at Owl Creek Bridge now swinging from the side of the bridge.

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