Tags: Writing The Literature ReviewEmory Emba EssaysThesis Prospectus ProposalUrban Design Dissertation TopicsProblem Solving WebsiteSolve The Linear Programming Problem By The Simplex Method
The strange "whispers" he had been hearing were, in the clinical perspective of asphyxiation, the gasps emanating from that same tongue. Farquhar's demise has come not through a beating heart, the "tell" convulsing in Poe's madman, but through eyes that bulge and cannot close and through a tongue that whispers a tale of vanity. Perhaps because Farquhar's vanity is deeper than we suspect.Back on the bridge, awaiting his execution, Farquhar was given one final moment to consider his moral plight -- perhaps to focus on the family he had abandoned for his warrior's adventure: "He closed his eyes in order to fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children" (306).
Torching that driftwood would have rescued Farquhar from a life of indistinction, illuminating the gallant knight of the Confederacy.
In this moment of willful misperception, however, the man's character turns grotesquely inward, toward a final self-absorption and delusion.
This sabotage will release Farquhar's true "energies," which the "inglorious restraint" of his having escaped -- perhaps dodged -- the Civil War has thus far suppressed (307).
These supposed "energies" thus become the very substance of his fantasy escape.
former NEH Fellow at Harvard University, now teaches modern American literature and film at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. This is Bierce's most concentrated realism, unmasking the vainglory and personal arrogance of a Romantic culture."An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" (1890) depicts the heroic delusions of a citizen saboteur as he is being hanged by the Union army.
Eliot, Horace, and the Formalist Empire" (Farquhar's enthrallment with the driftwood, fantastically distorting his perception of time and space, pre-empts any final reconnection to his life in a real world. Bierce comments that the patron himself, "without too much qualification," accepted "the frankly villainous dictum that all is fair in love and war" (307).Toward dubious glory, then, as a guerrilla soldier, Farquhar has sought out the "great quantity of driftwood" that the disguised Union scout had told him one could ignite under the strategic Owl Creek Bridge (308).But nobility in the Farquhar family is always faintly ridiculous.The "thumbnail burlesque of martial rhetoric," as F. Logan describes Farquhar's delusory heroics, is established almost from the beginning of the story." (311) -- a point that confirms the fantastic nature of his escape even as it foreshadows its collapse.Having fled the river and arrived at the street leading home, Farquhar hears "whispers in an unknown tongue" (312), and at that word -- "tongue" -- Bierce returns his protagonist to the reality of his hanging, contracting the play of Farquhar's preternatural senses to the image of his tongue swelling and thrusting forward. In "Owl Creek Bridge," the protagonist's self-aggrandizing narrative appears, at first, to be perfectly realistic and reasonable. Genteel southern ideals about noble soldiering -- "the larger life of the soldier, the opportunity for distinction" -- have loomed over Farquhar like father and judge. We know Poe's speaker to be mad from the start, but Farquhar seems only to have bitten off more than he could chew -- trying to burn down a bridge used by Union troops -- so we forgive him for his error and indulge his final delusion. In fact, subtly though not always discreetly, he is hanging him for it.  They have been the vexing eye upon him, despite the absence of any condescension or condemnation from his community.A generation earlier, Edgar Allan Poe, with whom Bierce is often compared because of their interest in the psychology of the grotesque, had begun to investigate the deformities of self-engrossment, that wayward spirit of independence so determinedly American, like Emerson's glossy and self-reliant Yankee or Dickinson's brooding "Soul" that seals itself up in a vault of its own society.Milton, battling for the character of his own England during civil war, considered narcissism the precursor to anarchy.