Reality Vs. Idealism
In the short story, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”, Ambrose Bierce quickly drifted from realism in the beginning of the story to idealism throughout the rest of the selection. Immediately before Peyton experiences his first idealistic event, Bierce described a realistic thought on how Peyton closed his eyes and attempted to fix his final thoughts on his loved ones, his wife and children. Bierce described an idealistic observation by the main character, Peyton as he explained how he could see the intricate details through the vibrancy of the leaves of trees on the riverbank. As the story goes on Bierce often refers to the soldiers, the captain, the sergeant, the two privates, and his executioners as monsters. He refers to their movements as “grotesque and horrible” and their size “gigantic.” As Peyton tore off the noose around his neck and thrust it aside vigorously, he described how the movements of his hands resembled the movements of a water snake. As Peyton began on his final thoughts reality faded quickly to an unrealistic point of view, or state of mind.
Bierce described an unrealistic, super natural sort of power that Peyton obtained as he emerged from the stream. At that moment Peyton was in full possession of his physical senses and could feel and understand things never before perceived. The first sense that he had noticed was his amplified sight and his perception living things. From the stream he noticed the distinct colors in the dewdrops upon the blades of grass. He could see from across the bank, the gray spiders connecting their webs from twig to twig. As he noticed the veining of each leaf on the trees he also observed every little insect upon them. He could see everything as if it was in slow motion and amplified to the creators’ explanation of how and what steps he took to paint his master piece.
Bierce described his second unrealistic encounter as his sense of hearing being amplified, as to hear every little sound, far and near. As Bierce described in his unique, highly descriptive style of writing, Peyton could hear the “humming of the gnats that danced above the eddies of the stream.”
Most human beings are incapable of hearing a gnat fly and roam about, for it’s size and muted humming is no louder than a pin dropped on a rug. He could hear the flapping of the dragonflies’ wings and the strokes of the water spiders as they ventured through the stream. He described all these lucid sounds as audible music. Peyton’s hearing was remarkably and quixotically amplified beyond any human beings capability.
The way Bierce described Peyton’s super natural powers, so to say was so detailed and full of imagery. As Peyton once again emerged to the top of the stream the soldiers or in Peyton’s point of view, monsters, were all aimed directly at him ready to shoot on command. As the commander ordered his men to fire Peyton dove deep into the stream and was shot between his collarbone and neck, which he so simply pulled right out with no pain or blood. Bierce describes how Peyton thought with the rapidity of lightening. These are yet more super natural, unreal descriptions of the visions and superhero like qualities. Bierce explains Peyton’s adventure of escape and idealistic traits in such a believable way that if it wasn’t so exaggerated it could very well be mistaken as reality.
As Peyton was being hanged the idealistic events began to occur. Bierce described through the nearly the whole story how Peyton experiences super natural powers such as, amplified sight, hearing, the ability to remove a bullet with such ease that he simply snatches it right out, and highly sensitive touch. Bierce told of how he escaped through his five senses being recorded in a way that no man would ever perceive. As the story ends and Peyton is still hanging high above the river, with a noose around his neck, idealism once again fades into reality.