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Essay on An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge Summary

1. In reference to literary movements, naturalism and realism are quite similar but have clear differences to each other. Realism refers to writings that are based off the “real world” and the way a human in the real world would usually live their life. Naturalism is in a way a branch of realism and the stark difference between the two is that literary naturalist deemed that nature – things out of human control – determine humans/ characters circumstances.

One example from the story Editha by W.D. Howells that is more naturalistic than realistic occurs at the very end of the story. Editha is currently ashamed and pitying herself after the death of her boyfriend in the SpanishAmerican War, whom she basically bullied into volunteering for the war to win her heart. A few months later, Editha has her portrait painted and as she is painted she tells the artist everything of her experience with the war, the death of George, and his mother.

The artist phrases her response in such a way that Editha feels uplifted and no longer feels self-pity and shame. Although, she learns nothing from her ordeal as the artist is able make Editha feel a shift of blame for what has happened from Editha to George’s mother. This is an example of naturalism because a force outside Editha’s control – the artist – changes her circumstance. Without hearing the particular word the artist spoke, Editha would never gotten out of her self-pity or shame.

2. T agree that both Editha and An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge depict the desire the idealistic but foolish desire to be a hero. In Editha, Editha believes only if her boyfriend fights and risks his life for his country and becomes an “American hero” can he then win her heart and deserve her. But by becoming her “perfect” man and “hero” he dies in the first round of kills during the war. What she doesn’t understand, even at the end, is that a hero doesn’t have to risk his life for the country, a hero can be someone who you strive to be like or become. The other literary text, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, Peyton learns from a Southern soldier that the Northern army during the civil war is planning on rebuilding the Owl Creek Bridge.

He then attempts to be the single hero and defend his nation and destroy the bridge, even though he is warned of the consequences of being found. Peyton is captured by the Northern army because the soldier that told him of the North’s plans was actually a Northern spy of the war and set him up to die. This 35 year old man was attempting to be a hero and had good intentions but trusted the wrong person and ended up being put to death for it. Each story is sad in the fact that this could have happened in the real world and because the main character was naïve people around them suffered.

3. In the short story Editha, Editha evokes the moral blindness of patriotism in relation to the start of the Spanish-American War. Editha doesn’t quite understand war and is not to blame for this as she has never experienced how gruesome war is. She believes that any war the nation is in she can support it because the nation is always right and she also sees it as an opportunity to make a man perfect. Throughout the story Editha overlooks war as a peaceful escape for the citizens of the countries the US wished to invade and take from Spain.

An example of something that Editha overlooks is what patriotism can be without being blind and naïve; you can support your country with pride and be loyal to them without dying for the country. The only way she knows to be patriotic is to throw everything you may believe in to the side for her country, even if it is for her own selfish motives. 4. Even though both short stories, Editha and An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, have illusions which the reader gets caught into, they are very different from one another. In Editha, the illusion comes about when George dies at war and the reader is convinced that Editha realized her

selfishness and learned her lesson. Howells convinces the reader even farther by describing that Editha was physically ill with fever and grief. Only during the last paragraph are readers forced back to reality in that Editha has not changed and would probably continue to manipulate people in the future. In An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, Peyton vividly depicts that when the sergeant steps off the wooden plank that he is standing on that the noose breaks and leads him spiraling into the water below. The reader is left on edge as Peyton barely escapes being killed from the shots fired from the soldiers, he then proceeds to attempt to find his way home back to his wife and children.

Only once he finds the road he knows does the reader know what is happening, during this point in the story Peyton describes he swelled and bruised neck and how he couldn’t seem to feel the ground beneath his feet. He is then transported to the gates of his house and sees he wife, when he takes a step forward he feels and blow to his neck and is consumed by blackness. The last sentenced confirms the readers beliefs that he did not actually escape, he was dreaming and the noose never broke. Both the stories show the illusions wrenching the reader to see the grim reality of the situation.

5. Yes, I do agree that Editha seems to be very contemporary for its time. The bones of the story are very broad and either the whole skeleton or parts of the skeleton can apply to a multitude of situations that people today still face. The last 100 years, all the US citizens really have known is what it is like to live when your country is at war and the fear and grief of losing soldiers at war. Soldier’s loved ones never want to believe that their son or daughter could die while they are serving their country, but the sad and real truth is that as soon as they enlist they could die; even during training.

This short story is a great example of literary realism as it brings “real world” to life in a book. I myself have a loved one in the Army and every day I hope he will never die during training or if he gets deployed, but unlike Editha I am not blind to the fact that he could die and that he did not need to enlist to be “perfect”. For me this story hits home and probably does the same for millions of other people who know people in the military, which is incredible in my opinion as it was written over a hundred years ago.

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