An Occurance On Owl Creek Essay Research

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An Occurance On Owl Creek Essay, Research Paper English – Book Reports Bierce and Hemingway Death is an intriguing thing. From time immemorial we have feared it, used it, pondered it. Frequently, stories allow the reader into the minds of those immediatly surrounding the one who will die; but all of us “will die.” Our morbid interest is in dying, the going, that threshold between death and life. What happens there? There are similiarities and differences in how death appears to the protagonist, written by Ambrose Bierce in An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge, and Ernest Hemingway in The Snows of Kilimanjaro. Bierce offers An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge to show the incredible fantasy that passes through the mind of a man as he dies. Hemingway’s engrossing description

lies in The Snows of Kilimanjaro. Here, on the African savannah, a man encounters death slowly and with excruciating lucidness. While the differences between the two stories are easy to enumerate, it is the simliarities that may offer the most insight into the minds of the authors and, perhaps, into the minds of us all. The setting for An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge is northern Alabama during the Civil War. Peyton Farquhar (Peyton) is said to be a planter who is left behind by the Confederate Army due to circumstances “…of an imperious nature,” but he longs for the “release of his energies, the larger life of the soldier, the opportunity for distinction.” Immaturity seems the watchword for him; the eagerness with which he swallows the bait presented by a Union spy may

give a glimpse of the lack of gravity in Peyton’s character that leads to his capture and to the fantastic attempt at escape or denial that his mind fabricates just before his death. Peyton is not a realist. Harry is a realist. The protagonist in The Snows of Kilimanjaro faces his pending doom with distinct clarity and resignation. In fact, his insistance greatly distrubs his wife (naturally) who tries to cheer him up by telling him that help is only a day away, and all that is needed to make it is a positive attitude. Harry is positive. He is certain that he will die very soon. He knows the mistake that has sealed his fate. Although he would change the past if he could, he does not seem to lament his end except for the writing he will never do. Here is a primary difference

between Peyton and Harry. It may be the reason for the difference in how death appears to each of them. The mind of Peyton tries to deny reality and invents a fantasy that shields itself from deaths appearance until the bitter end. As a result, death has no form or character for him. It is only a sudden shock, a blow to the back of his neck followed by a blinding white light and a sound “like the shock of a cannon.” Finally, death assumes a common theme: darkness and silence. Harry confronts his death head on. He is looking for death and it appears to him as a presence that occupies space, has horrendous breath, and is somehow associated with a certain hyena that skulks about the camp. The most noteworthy and shocking aspect of The Snows of Kilimanjaro is the appearance of

death to Harry. Rather than the Grim Reaper spiriting him away, Harry’s death seems much more realistic and threatening. The first time he senses it, he relates: It came with a rush; not as a rush of water nor of wind; but a sudden evil-smelling emptiness and the odd thing was that the hyena slipped lightly along the edge of it. The difference between the two stories points to the thing that makes each a gripping tale. Peyton escapes, seemingly, and his efforts at eluding the enemy seem noble and heroic; his desires for adventure are finally being fulfilled, and what a fabulous yarn it is. But wait; the shock at the back of his neck is almost equalled by the shock of the reader as he realizes the truth and Peyton dies. The abrupt end makes the story worth reading again. In The