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Linguistic and Narrative Cohesion in An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridg

Linguistic and Narrative Cohesion in An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

The reader’s bewilderment at the end of Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” is less a result of Peyton Farquhar’s death than the timely coordination of this man’s violent execution with the reader’s sudden realization that instead of a detached objective reading he has been cajoled into a subjective experience (Ames 53). The reader is able to cross over into the consciousness of the protagonist at the moment when experience ends because of the story’s cohesion and coherence. A focused examination of specific passages and themes in each of the story’s sections demonstrates how Bierce satisfies the expectations of the reader and provides a reasonable subjective experience through known-new contracts of sentence structure and narrative style.

Martha Kolln points out that the study of cohesion “concerns the connection of sentences to one another, to the ‘flow’ of a text, to the ways in which a paragraph of separate sentences becomes a unified whole” (19). The known-new sequence is a rhetorical technique to provide cohesion between sentences, paragraphs, and even ideas. Specifically, it is a contract in which “old, or known, information . . . will appear in the subject slot, with the new information in the predicate” (236). Narrative style can also be validated by the preceding schema network. Each section is defined by its predecessor.

Birece’s story is divided into three sections: the first describes the final preparations for the military execution of a civilian prisoner, the second flashes back to the incident that led up to his capture, and the third recounts the sensations, thoughts, and feelings of the condemned man as he drea…

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…e Story and Its Writer: Resources for Teaching. 4th Ed. Boston: St. Martin’s, 1995.

Cheatham, George. “Bierce’s ‘An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.'” Explicator, Washington, DC 43:1 (Fall 1984): 45-47.

Conlogue, William. “Bierce’s ‘An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.'” Explicator, Washington, DC 48:1 (Fall 1989): 37-38.

Kolln, Martha. Rhetorical Grammar: Grammatical Choices, Rhetorical Effects. 2nd Ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1996.

Linkin, Harriet Kramer. “Narrative Technique in ‘An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.'” Journal of Narrative Technique 18:2 (Spring 1988): 137-52.

Stoicheff, Peter. “‘Something Uncanny’: The Dream Structure in Ambrose Bierce’s ‘An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.'” Studies in Short Fiction 30:3 (Summer 1993): 349-58.

Williams, Joseph M. Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity

James Joyce’s Araby – Setting in Araby

Setting in James Joyce’s Araby

In the opening paragraphs of James Joyce’s short story, “Araby,” the setting takes center stage to the narrator. Joyce tends carefully to the exquisite detail of personifying his setting, so that the narrator’s emotions may be enhanced. To create a genuine sense of mood, and reality, Joyce uses many techniques such as first person narration, style of prose, imagery, and most of all setting. The setting of a short story is vital to the development of character.

In the opening paragraph, North Richmond Street is introduced as “blind,” and “quiet”, yet on it rests another house which is unoccupied. The narrator states that the house is, “Detached,” from the others on the street, but that, “The other houses on the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces” (379). This creates an image of isolation, and uncertainty, for the one uninhabited house. The image of the lone house, lays in the shadows of the crowd of other houses who stand so remarkably calm, and collected. This enhances the image of the adolescent narrator, and perhaps foreshadows, his blind inclination towards self discovery on the road of life.

The image also evokes that of the uncomfortable affect a group of peers may cast upon the isolated teen. Will steady doses of rejection and alienation drive the narrator to darker days ahead? He lives with his aunt and uncle, and there is no mention of his real parents. Whether he was abandoned, unwanted, or orphaned remains a mystery. In fact it may be that the narrator simply has no outlet through which to exercise his fragile emotions and thoughts. He has friends, but none to any degree of intimacy, his playful innocence pron…

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…y perception of the reader, with the placement of the physical aspects conveying double meaning. Briefly foreshadowed, the religiousness with which he experiences his boyhood fancy, has all but abandoned and betrayed him. He recognizes the, “…silence like that which pervades a church after a service” (382). The bazaar has been emptied all the life within in it and become a cold inhospitable environment. The narrator is left again in his isolation in the middle of the bazaar, failed and dejected. He states, “Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger” (383). Perhaps it is life itself that is the religious experience worth living for, but one evolving from the inner spirit of the self in a great moment of epiphany.

Works Cited:

Joyce, James. “Araby”. Kirszner and Mandell 226.

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