Temperamental Transitions


Humans transform in times of struggle. “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge”, written by Ambrose Bierce, is a short story that accurately depicts these temperamental transformations in the human disposition. Humans when faced with trauma, react in ways that are not normal compared to their typical personalities\'; and do not wish to do so, but are forced in an attempt to remain alive and mentally fit. Demonstrated are these instinctual flukes throughout this story, committed by either the solider in gray or Peyton Farquhar himself.


Compassion, empathy, and benevolence, the very human emotions which set people apart from apes, vanish in times imbroglio where your own life ranks first, disappear; especially in times of war. This takes place when wits and instinct take over emotional evolution. After these thoughts and actions are purposely misplaced in the complex human brain, the human body becomes an efficient killing machine, worried solely with its own endurance as a life form. Peyton, possessing no wits, is hung for his ignorantly placed trust in the gray soldier. Peyton is not a fighting man, he is a more domestic, cultured male who doesn’t belong in war; “He… fixed his last thoughts on his wife and children”(583). The soldier in gray, unfortunately, seems to have no remorse. He is concerned with his own entity, and that means to not overlook any enemy, no matter how small and insignificant, like Peyton. Times like these in war embarrass the much evolved human for depending on the simple, forgotten practices that should be forgotten, but alas they are not, and war is to blame.


People are easily intimidated and scared. Peyton Farquhar is a man who has no wits, but big aspirations. Tied up on a railroad bridge, all Peyton can do is dream about getting out alive; “I could evade the bullets and swimming vigorously, and reach the bank." He has no guts, but all wishes for glory. His body ceases to function because he is in a dangerous situation, in which there is no real way out. Yet, he is so enticed by freedom he visualizes a complete, and believable, story of a daring escape. Peyton has never been asked to do anything daring or dangerous; he was "..of a highly respected Alabama family". So, when the time came for him to act, all he could do was imagine. In his mind; he subconsciously knows he cannot do it in the real, so he attempts to in his mind somehow clinging to the hope of actually escaping and living. He wouldn’t have to worry about that problem if war never came along; playing tricks with his, and all soldiers\' heads.


The most substantial portion of “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge” is Peytons’ mental delusion of being set free, his second chance. Blatantly, Peyton is not a warrior; he is a wealthy plantation owner who has been catered to all of his life. His death turns out to be the culmination of his petty existence, however, it is not a pleasurable climax. This in turn forces the weakling to fade off into an easier time and ponder of alternatives to his inescapable fate; "If I could free my hands, I might throw off the noose and spring into the stream … and get away home" (111). His imaginary ending is his mental escape, his last grasp at life, a final endeavor to avoid his doom; to stay alive. This feeble grab shows how difficult excepting ones death can be, especially in war, where death is the objective.


Humans rely on instincts in times of their crisis, and sometimes these instincts are unusual, yet pitiful, for people just want to live, and their bodies are trying to keep it that way. War brings out the best and worst of these instincts, because war puts people in the most twisted, fatal situations like the one Peyton Farquhar was placed in the short story “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge”, written by Ambrose Bierce. In these states of confusion, the most important thing a person could have is at stake, their life. Humans when faced with trauma, react in ways that are not normal compared to their typical personalities\'; and do not wish to do