Review: Narration & Description, and the Writing Process

Posted: October 24th, 2013

Review: Narration & Description, and the Writing Process



Review: Narration & Description, and the Writing Process

In the book, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (1890), Ambrose Bierce released a narrative style that became very influential among writers and scriptwriters. In his work, Bierce talked further on the subject of the liminal, distended time. His style of writing was placed in a liminal context; that is, it occurred at the powerful sensory verge between death and existence. The incidence is a psychological projection, an agitated vision in the looming near-death awareness of a destined man. In the central character’s pre-mortem increased awareness, real time yields to a fundamentally slower prejudiced time, and within a moment, he dreams of a flash-forward where he had escapes and was still alive. Therefore, the other vital elements of the style involve an inflation of time and a projection into the prospects. The story ends when the subjective instance comes to a sudden crude finale, and the audience is transferred back to the world of real time. The central character is deceased, and the audience experiences a series of reactions: bewilderment, astonishment, the loss of expectations, bereavement, the ultimate rationality of objective actuality, and realization of Bierce’s skillfully developed deception. Bierce believed in the opinion that there existed an immense distinction between objectively evaluated time and subjectively perceived time. Additionally, he assumed that this difference was mostly heightened in the seconds before one died (Habibi, 2002).

Bierce mentioned that at certain times, a given period might appear to be shorter or longer than it really is. For instance, when taking care of a child. This difference in time among different people was brought about by whether the people doing the action were experiencing a good time or they were being stressed by even being in that position. However, Bierce exaggerated this common experience to a point that he used a futuristic approach in writing his stories. By seeing the world through a telescope, Bierce was essentially trying to exploit this phenomenon exhaustively. Some of the style he used including condensing several hours of events into a single moment. His style bordered on other fantastical occurrences that happened historically such as the declaration of the Ten Commandments that was read by God in one utterance (Bierce, Evans & Atkins, 2003). Scientifically, it has been proved that Bierce’s propositions were indeed true to a certain level. Several scenarios have indeed been proved consistent with psychological studies that support the idea that one can distend time when they are dreaming. It might be largely correct to add that Bierce was talking from a position supported by personal experiences as well as extensive research. Bierce had been in combat for a long time and had obviously experienced long, tedious and boring periods when manning a post or scouting the enemy (Bierce, 1990).

Other scholars that reinforced Bierce’s works on subjective and objective time include William James who mad a thorough analysis on time and concluded with several principles such as the ‘specious present’. The credibility of the distended time style however seemed more valid when supplemented with the unusual psychological condition of near-death consciousness. Several situations, conditions and factors that can trigger secretion of hormones that induce heightened reactions in the human body. For instance, adrenalin and serotonin can trigger increased strength, panic and heightened awareness. In his book, Bierce exhibits a skillful method of probing the inner mind in pursuit of the answer to the feelings and experiences that the protagonist experiences right before his death (Davidson, 1982). Bierce builds on the processes of cognitive abilities and heightened awareness and makes them concrete.


Bierce, A. (1990). An occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. Champaign, Ill: Project Gutenberg.

Bierce, A., Evans, R. C., & Atkins, E. W. (2003). Ambrose Bierce’s “An occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”: An annotated critical edition. West Cornwall, Conn: Locust Hill Press.

Davidson, C. N. (1982). Critical essays on Ambrose Bierce. Boston, Mass: G.K. Hall.

Habibi, D. A. (2002). The Experience of a Lifetime: Philosophical Reflections on a Narrative Device of Ambrose Bierce. Studies in the Humanities, 29, 83-108.

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