The narrator sets the scene upon a railway bridge in Northern Alabama. There are around four messages that Ambrose Pierce tries to get across, firstly that he is uncomfortable with war, how people are forced into war that do not want to fight and what it does to them and how many innocent people get hurt.
The second message is that war turns men callous as Bierce says of them as staring stonily and motionless, he also says they might have been statues to adorn the bridge.
The words stonily motionless and statues used to describe the military illustrate the lack of movement and maybe that they are not as heartless as they look. Bierce then goes on to describe death as a personification, ‘Death is a dignitary who, when he comes announced is to be received with formal manifestations of respect even with those who find himself most familiar with him’ they believe that death is an expected visitor who should be treated with respect even if you have faced it before. He says that `In the code of military etiquette silence and fixity are forms of deference,’ this once again may shows that the military have respect and pity for Peyton Farquar.
The third message says that even a kind family man like Peyton Farquar, who loves his wife and children, can get killed by war, we are given evidence of this when Bierce tells us of the liberal military code which makes provision for hanging many kinds of people and gentlemen are not excluded, this shows that the military are trained to kill anyone and not to show pity or unwillingness to do so or they’ll may face the death penalty themselves as betrayal to the army.
The writer previously gave us the impression that he was talking about the scene that he is a passer by but now all of a sudden he is telling us Peyton Farquar’s thoughts. Then the lieutenant gives the order to fire he does it in a cold hearted way and without pity for the man.
The next message that he tries to get across is that the mind can play tricks on you when you are faced with a situation like this. Before he falls he thinks and can’t understand why he is hearing sharp distinct, metallic sound which he compares he compares to a blacksmiths hammer upon a anvil, but as slow as the tolling of a death knell. In his mind the intervals increased to a point where they become maddening, the strength and sharpness increased to even start to hurt him, but what he was actually hearing was the tick of his watch.
This gives us an insight to what the story is about in how the mind is able to fool you and an insight to Peyton Farquar’s mind.
One of the last messages that he tries to get through is that of the basic survival instinct of man, and this is shown as Peyton Faraquar says if he could only free his hands and try to get away from the soldier and try and avoid the gunshots from the guns of the military.
Through out the story Bierce uses different narrative techniques to create the different moods throughout the story. In the first part of the story he is telling us what is happening him and what war is like and what it is all about and what he thinks of war. But then it’s like he goes back to the beginning of the story like in flash backs where he tells us of how Peyton Farquar got in to this situation and about Peyton Farquar and what kind of man he was. Bierce then goes back to part of where he left off the first time at the start of the story and describes what happened Peyton Farquar after the hanging took place.
He does this to mislead our mind in the way to say that Peyton Farquar lived but in fact he actually lived. In the third part he uses the most types of languages as Bierce used metaphors to show the amount of pain Peyton Farquar was under during the hanging. He says things such as a pain of sharp pressure upon his throat, then keen poignant agonies. He then uses similes to describe the pain, streams of pulsating fire, this is now comparing his pain to an intense fire and it is spreading throughout his body and he uses the word ‘flash’ which suggests the pain is sudden and as fast as lightning like an intense throbbing. His brain is on fire and his whole body is in an intolerable temperature of pain. Bierce then misleads the reader by saying `The power of though was restored, he knew that the rope had broken.’ Which in fact it had not. He then goes on to describe it as a rebirth but which it is actually a dream he is in, but there was then a sharp pain.
Bierce uses sensuous writing, which appeals to the senses, Peyton Farquhar seems to have developed super human sight and hearing as ‘he can now see the individual trees and the veining on the leaves of trees, the humming of the gnats that danced above the eddies of the steram.
The final four paragraphs of the passage has a change of mood the writing becomes more grotesque and horrible, but it is still a dream. But the Bierce lets the reader in the story that he has actually died as he says despite the suffering, he fell a sleep while walking, for now he sees another scene, perhaps he has merely recovered from delirium. He stands at the gate of his own home. All as he left it all is bright and beautiful in the morning sunshine, he must have travelled the entire night. As he pushed open the gate as he passes up the wide white walk. All this talk of white and bright, tells us that he is now in heaven.
He sees his wife and is about to go up and clasp her when a blinding white light blazes about him, then there was a noise of a cannon and then it is all dark for him and silence. He was dead, he had a broken neck and he swung to and fro under the timbers of the old Creek Bridge. This whole ordeal was a complete daydream and it was suppose to shock the reader as they were relieve he had escaped and was free but he actually did not.