An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and Recitatif Literal Analysis

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1188 Words
Date:  2022-06-19

Toni Morrison and Ambrose Bierce are great novelists and narrators in their own rights, having set a precedent in the authorship of fiction works in the reconstruction of self-invention and cultural phenomenon. Through her narrations and exposure to various literal facets, Morrison embraces the effacements of humanity by addressing matters family, the past, and present in her work "Recitatif". In the narrative, she employs vocal performance whose artistic nature reconstructs America's past putting all Americans in touch with positive and rather usable cultural heritage. Bierce, on the other hand, manipulates the user's imagination and perspective by uniquely employing time, which is regarded as a non-spatial progression where events take place in irreversible or rather unalterable succession. Seemingly, the author comprehends the fact that a distortion of the continuum nature of time equals the disruption of reality perceptions hence, he presents An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge's sequence of events in a manner compelling readers to put into question all other assumptions pertaining the true character of Peyton Farquhar. It is therefore apparent that the two authors employ literal devices to present their respective plot structures. Toni Morrison and Ambrose Bierce employ multiple literal elements that set their stories in a particular space and time, direct and indirect-characterization alike, as well as the Southern gothic literal genre, thematically bringing out the intended perspectives for both the narrator and audience.

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Bierce, in his work An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge employs a unique twist on the story's plot, where he uses the time to manipulate the perspective of his reader and audience. By disrupting reader's perceptions on reality, Morrison takes his audience through Peyton Farquhar's mind in the moments preceding his demise, the miraculous escape, and sudden reappearance back into the present, real-time (531). The twisted plot leaves the reader uncertain of the true nature of real-time and its consequent effects on one's awareness of reality. In so doing, the narrator ensures that the reader can easily create a distinction between the historical timelines presented in the story as he describes each and every tangible detail of the narration, setting it in a particular and specific time period in which the events occur. In Page 531, Bierce reveals the setting of the story by indicating that the character was slave owner who devoted his life to the "Southern cause". This detail sets the story in the Southern America in the course of the Civil War, bringing out the genre of Southern American gothic literature, which not only tells the reader what to expect, but also twists the expectations of the audience, making one to assume some given occurrences drawing from the previous understanding of gothic genre conventions, which may then be subverted or rejected as the plot progresses. The use of a particular time period enhances the development of a reader's perception of both the situation in the story and the character of Peyton. In fact, the audience is drawn to empathize with the direct characterization of Peyton Farquhar and his situation by labeling him as a "slave owner", an "original secessionist" and a "politician" (P. 531-535).

In Recitatif, Toni Morrison gives a detailed description of the eases and hardships of a relationship between two girls -one black and the other white. As opposed to Bierce's employment of one setting set in a specific time, she employs several settings throughout the development of the story's plot to emphasize the strains and eases between the two friends' relationship. Although the original meeting point is set at Bonaventure, the two friends meet several decades later, rather repeatedly, in different settings and times. This helps bring out the differences in their friendship as well as the influence that the time and locational differences had on their relationship. The story is told from the perspective of Twyla, an eight-year-old who becomes friends with Robert in an environment amassed in loneliness, confusion, and hostility. Through the careful employment of the genre of southern gothic literature, historical references reveal that the story's time setting falls around the 1950s. In reconstructing her plot, Morrison blurs the narration's thematic detail, but in page 1 draws a clear distinction on the race of the girls, displaying the intended message she desires the reader to acquire "like salt and pepper" (Morrison 1). It is therefore apparent to the reader the hardships, both cultural and racial, that America faced between 1950 and 1960 through the perspective of the narrator, Twyla and her relationship with Roberta.

It is rather interesting how characterization is employed in the story through indirect characterization where one flat character is used to infer details about the two other key (round) characters. Through indirect characterization, the reader is able to actually learn the behavior, the thoughts and the environment in which the characters and the story itself is set. Much of what is revealed to the reader about Maggie is not explicitly described but drawn out from the speech of Twyla where she metaphorically says that "Maggie is Mute" (Morrison 2). Morrison succeeds to use two races, black and white, as a representation of attempts in breaking walls of discrimination. She further employs indirect characterization to elicit in her audience sympathy promoting the interests of disabled characters. Through Maggie's character as disabled, she posses as a tool for the growth of Roberta and Twyla throughout the story plot line. In so doing, Maggie, as a flat character, serves as the static persona to whom dynamic and rather "round characters like Twyla and Roberta evolve, physically representing the dysfunctional lifestyle of Twyla.

Through the distortion of time, Bierce manages to create in the reader an ability to sympathize with Peyton, subsequently questioning the subjectivity and nature of time by making apparent the relativity of truth. The use of direct characterization, the genre of southern gothic literature in the story to set a specific time period and setting of An Occurrence at Owl Creek bridge only bring out a rather unpopular perspective that truth and reality are subject to time, the assumptions of a reader as well as emotions. Recitatif, on the other hand, through an in-depth but rather short exploration of the relationship between two characters, elicits in a reader the need to comprehend the role that racial difference can play in building relationships. Morrison, however, fails to reveal which among the two girls is black or white but instead manages to successfully illustrate how the divisive races in American culture are grounded on respective whites and blacks presenting themselves in regard to their racial identities which are often in opposition to each other. By twisting and leaving it to the imagination of the reader, the author uses Maggie as a character that explicates the ideological reconstruction of "otherness" through disability, hence ensuring that the reader is not sure which character is explicitly black or white, but instead brings out the prosthetic intended perspective of how racial differences ought to be handled.

Works Cited

Bierce, Ambrose. "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." The American Experience. Ed. Eileen Thompson. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall Inc, 1999. 530-536. Print.

Morrison, Toni, ed. Birth of a nationhood : gaze, script, and spectacle in the O.J. Simpson case. New York: Pantheon Books, 1997. Print.

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An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and Recitatif Literal Analysis. (2022, Jun 19). Retrieved from

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