The Beauty Of Life


The Beauty Of Life Essay, Research Paper

The Beauty of Life

The short story, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce, has many profound implications for the reader. During the main character’s hallucination before he is hung, he, as well as the reader, receive a confirmation of the beauty and value of life and a balance to the emotional and disturbed nature of the “real” time of the story, which presents the world, that of the civil war south, as unpleasant and full of manipulation.

We notice immediately the strange amount of natural description, once Peyton is free from the noose and floating down stream, while being shot at by military men. Instead of panic the recent escapee “saw the individual trees, the leaves and the veining of each leaf-the very insects upon them, the locusts, the brilliant-bodied flies, the gray spiders stretching their webs from twig to twig”(p117). He was noticing the beauty of life around him. Things that he had never stopped to take notice of before were all of a sudden a vital experience, of immediate importance to him. Before the moment that he supposedly escaped death’s throes, he had never seen such beauty or such loveliness, or perhaps, more accurately, he has never truly appreciated them.

Peyton also at this time became very pointedly focused on the people closest to him, a no longer on the war and the affairs of the greater world. While in the water Peyton’s goal was to get away from the military men, that are now shooting at him, to get to his beloved wife and children. “By diving I could evade the bullets, and, swimming vigorously, reach the bank, take to the woods, and get away home”(p115). This is what keeps him going once he reaches the forest and is making his way to his home. “By nightfall he was fatigued, footsore, famishing. The thought of his wife and children urged him on”(p119). His devotion is now to them and not the same as it was at the beginning of the story when he was conned into blowing up the bridge.

All of this, of course, was happening during the split moment of Peyton’s hanging. He is trying to think about his family but his mind is drawn towards the beauty that surrounds him. However, in the present time of outside his brain, there has been war and deception driven upon him. While talking with the Federal scout that stopped by his plantation for some water. Peyton started a conversation with the scout about Owl Creek bridge the scout replied, “I observed that the flood of last winter had lodged a great quantity of driftwood against the wooden pier? It is now dry and would burn like tow”(p116). This is a set up by the Federal scouts. A lure for the eager Peyton. They needed something done to the Yanks but didn’t want to sacrifice their own men doing so. Therefore, they enlisted Peyton without his knowledge. He gets caught and is now being hung, chased and hunted.

Ambrose Bierce is telling an age-old story of redemption. Once life is at risk of being taken away, the main character starts to look at what is truly important in existence. He doesn’t see the Federal scouts shooting at him and trying to kill him. Instead, he sees “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?”(p117). He is noticing the splendor of the natural world around him. Even in the finale of the story, of the vision, we find that Peyton is not angry that he was set up into destroying Owl Creek Bridge. The thought does not to even cross his mind. The events of his death-vision have lead to what we might see as transcendent state. He moved from the worries of the physical world, disregarding the importance of his physical safety even, concentrating on the love and longing he felt for his wife and family. In this way, we can see that the author is showing us the spiritual redemption of Peyton.

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