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An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge Discussion Questions

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

If your students are reading Ambrose Bierce's novel 'An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,' it can help to have some specific questions to guide your class discussions. This lesson provides a series of open-ended questions to get your students started.

Reading An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce can give students a chance to discuss important themes and topics, such as the nature of the Civil War and how time can feel strange to people experiencing traumatic events. The book is also a complicated one, in terms of plot, narrative structure, and literary style. This means that students can really benefit from a chance to discuss what they are reading in class.

A good in-class literary discussion lets students learn from one another and enriches their reading experiences. Specific guiding questions can benefit the overall discussion, leading to a deeper understanding of the content. The questions in this lesson do not necessarily have right or wrong answers; they are intentionally open-ended and designed to get your students talking and listening to each other as they work through Bierce's text.

Questions About Section One

These questions will facilitate discussions about the book's opening section.

  • What are some of the things you learn right away about Peyton Farquar?
  • What do you think about the book's dramatic opening? How did you react to this beginning and why? Explain whether or not you felt motivated to read more.
  • Why is Farquar being executed at the beginning of the book?
  • How do the military men behave toward Farquar in this section? What do you think about them and what does Bierce do as an author to influence your opinion?
  • Talk about the setting in the book's opening passages. What do you picture? What questions do you have about where this story takes place? What seems to be the relationship between the setting and the plot?
  • Which images in the opening section of the book are the most dramatic for you? What impact do some of these images have on you as a reader?
  • Talk about what Farquar does mentally to help deal with his complicated and horrible situation at the book's beginning. What do you think about the techniques he uses?
  • What do you see as the role of imagination and fantasy in this book's opening?
  • What are you predicting and wondering as you move toward the second section of the book?

Questions About Section Two

Here, you will find questions that can prompt discussion about the middle section of the novel.

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