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“An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge” Or “A Dead Man’s Dream” Is A Short Story By American Author And Civil War Soldier Ambrose Bierce (1842–1913) From An Episode Of “The Twilight Zone” 1964
The film won the 1963 Academy Award for Best Short Film and first prize for Best Short Subject at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival. Often compared to the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, his stories share an attraction to death in its more bizarre forms.
Ambrose Bierce’s world was dramatically shaped by his war experience, as was true of many Union and Confederate soldiers who did not go on to become famous authors. As a soldier in the 9th Indiana Infantry, veteran of Shiloh, Chickamauga, and much of the Atlanta campaign, and as a staff officer, Bierce served faithfully through some of the worst combat the Civil War had to offer. He produced a series of short reminiscences of that service much in the way that thousands of other veterans wrote of their war experience.
A group of soldiers is hanging a southern farm owner for trying to stop northern military movements across the Owl Creek Bridge.
In the last moments of his life, the southern prisoner dreams he has escaped. And everything that happens in the story is really the images in the prisoner’s mind just before he dies.
Bierce asks the reader to examine how far “right” can go before it becomes “wrong.” The reader wants to sympathize with Farquhar not because Farquhar did anything right or noble, but because Farquhar is the only “human” in the story. The reader feels pity and sympathy for Farquhar’s wife who will never see her husband again, and his children who will never have their father. Yet the reader knows that the soldiers are the ones in the right, when the reader looks through Farquhar’s eyes, and is put in touch with Farquhar’s emotions… maybe, just this once, the bad guy can escape, the reader thinks. Maybe the bad guy isn’t quite so bad. In very much the same way that Stephen King’s early works twisted reality just enough to make the terrifying plausible, so do many of the works of Ambrose Bierce.
We won’t kill indiscriminately. No, selectively.
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966)
Do you think God is going to come down here and save you for being stupid? He doesn’t save stupid people, Abel.
— There Will Be Blood (2007)
Robert Redford and Paul Newman on the set of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) Directed by George Roy Hill
You’re lazy, and you’re stupid. Do you think God is going to save you for being stupid? He doesn’t save stupid people.