Sunday, August 12, 2007

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

"He had no wish to perfect his escape--was content to remain in that enchanting spot until retaken."

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge appears in full text here. The book appears in the episode The Long Con, and was shown being held by John Locke when he is arranging the books in the hatch. This story doesn't really have any hugely obvious plot-to-plot parallels with the show, unless you would like to speculate that the show will end in a way similar to this story. I did however, find many interesting points that parallel between the book and the show.

Point 1- The Men on the Bridge:
"It did not appear to be the duty of these men to know what was occurring at the center of the bridge."

This line is used to describe the sentries on the bridge at the execution of Peyton Farquhar.
  • This reminds me of the Dharma recruits when they first come to the island (per Ben's flashback) where they seem to have no idea what they are even doing there.
  • Roger Workman doesn't seem to know that he is to be a "workman" and has apparently signed up for this island without really knowing what it's all about.
  • Cindy and the others who are there to watch (Sawyer in the cage, and Locke who is to be killing his father), also put me in the mind of this idea. You get the feeling they aren't even really sure what they are supposed to be watching, just doing that they're told.
Point 2- The Banks of the River:
"He dug his fingers into the sand, threw it over himself in handfuls and audibly blessed it. It looked like diamonds, rubies, emeralds; he could think of nothing beautiful which it did not resemble. The trees upon the bank were giant garden plants; he noted a definite order in their arrangement, inhaled the fragrance of their blooms. A strange, roseate light shone through the spaces among their trunks and the wind made in their branches the music of ├ćolian harps."

This description is almost hyper detailed and tells how Peyton Farquhar sees his world after feeling he's almost died. It's as if he's seeing things in a new way.
  • The world he describes reminds me of the island with it's huge green plants, strange arrangements of trees, and beaches.
  • This made me think about when Sawyer and Michael finally washed ashore after the debaucle with the raft when Walt was taken.
  • This put me in mind of the trees that Kate and Juliet hid in when they were running from Smokey.
Point 3- The Whispers:
"--he distinctly heard whispers in an unknown tongue."

I'm pretty sure you know exactly where I'm going with this. WHISPERS! In an unknown tongue! Well, how about whispers that we can't quite hear?
  • On a simple straight forward level, perhaps the whispers he hears are simply the plants, animals, and water around him gurgling and rustling and what-not.
  • Maybe the whispers are actually what's really happening in the world while his mind is having his escape from the gallows fantasy. Maybe the whispers he hears are the voices of the soldiers on the bridge.
  • The whispers could also be his subconscious sort-of flashing his life before his eyes.
  • On a spiritual level, maybe the whispers are the voices of dead loved ones who are calling to him as he prepares to die.
All of these ideas tie in nicely with Lost, as we do know from Ben's flashback for one, that some of the whispers could indeed be loved ones that have died (his mother). We also know that they are people speaking or at least voices, as in one instance Sawyer can clearly hear the phrase, "It'll come back around," when he hears the whispers. Also, we have seen Losties encounter loved ones on the island, that are not there, or are supposed to be dead (Christian Sheppard, Dave, Shannon, Walt, and Yemi).

Point 4- Home and The End:
"As he pushes open the gate and passes up the wide white walk, he sees a flutter of female garments; his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet, steps down from the veranda to meet him. At the bottom of the steps she stands waiting, with a smile of ineffable joy, an attitude of matchless grace and dignity. Ah, how beautiful she is!"

At the end of the book, we discover the escape has all been the wishful fantasy of a man who is in the process of being hanged. It probably occurs in the seconds he is falling at the gallows. The last part of this fantasy is HOME, of being home and seeing his wife.

  • Many of the Losties have this fantasy, of getting home to their loved ones. So in essence the ending of his fantasy is much the same as it is for all of the flight 815 survivors.
  • Not all of the Losties want to get home. Locke for one, and perhaps even Rose as her cancer may come back if she does. But the ones that do certainly are willing to chance death in trying to get there. Peyton Farquhar was willing to chance death to get home, and as a matter of fact, started seeing the world as wondrous the more he ran. Having survived each thing made him see the world slightly differently and become more appreciative of what's around him.
  • When Sawyer and Michael wash up on shore in Adrift, sawyer proclaims, "How 'bout that. The current brought us back. We're home."
  • Peyton's survival fantasy is wrought with running, being shot at, nearly drowning, etc. All things that the Losties encounter on the island. If the Losties are having a survival fantasy, will they die as they finally arrive home?
Final Bullets:
  • Payton's crime was attempting to sabotage Owl Creek Bridge, much like we see Locke do time and again on the show. I find it interesting that this was the case in the story, and it was Locke who was holding the book when it appeared on the show.
  • Peyton was sort-of tricked into sabotaging the bridge by a man disguised as a Confederate Soldier. The Losties are constantly being run around in circles and persuaded to do things by people who are pretending to be things they aren't (Ben, Juliet, Michael, Danielle, etc...).
  • I personally hope this isn't how Lost ends. It'll be a bit of a "Timmy Westphall" moment for me if it does. I do however, think this is a great story, and has been interpreted well through the various movies and television episodes that have used it as their plot. I certainly see how Lost could be like this book, but I just really hope it's there as more of a Red Herring than as something we should be looking at as a possible ending.
Coming Soon: The Wizard of Oz
Next Month: Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass


Lisa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa said...

Such a great commentary! I listened to this one on audiobook, I didn't take such not notes as I'm not such a great audio-learner, but I got the general gist of the story. I concur with all of your bullets, but this one...was really!

"Peyton's survival fantasy is wrought with running, being shot at, nearly drowning, etc. All things that the Losties encounter on the island. If the Losties are having a survival fantasy, will they die as they finally arrive home?"

To even think that we might be seeing nothing but the final moments of each persons plane crash (ex. hanging) experience--- very cool speculation. I agree, I think I'd be disappointed, but I've also been a believer in a philosophy that says... "hmmmm...creative writers, maybe they could make even "this" scenario good" Anyway, Great way to take this theory from the book/story analysis! ;-)

The only thing that maybe (and I do mean MAYBE negates this theory (and saves us from the potentially disappointing ending) is Jack's flashforward.... unless.... they can work it insomehow....who knows!

Ange said...

Lisa: I agree about Jack and the really takes the wiggle room out of a lot of theories.

I personally hope that this isn't the way Lost will end, but I also like to think that the books they include for us have some significance.

I have faith in our writers though and I just know whatever they come up with I'll like (knock wood).

Thanks for taking the time to read!

Lisa said...

DITTO both sentiments- i'd like a better ending, and the books have really opened up a genre (sci-fi/fantasy) that's not typically my thing- but I've enjoyed them all so far! Hopefully, there's more to it than that.... but...only time will tell!

maven said...

Hey, Ange: Such great bullet Points relating to LOST! I, too, hope that the show doesn't end this way. I would think it would be very unsatisfying to many of us. I really am not sure how many of the Losties want to get home. Many of them don't have anything to get home to. At least, they don't have a fantasy of what home is anymore. We know that Locke believes his destiny is with the island.

I also like your point that it seemed like a lot of the Dharma people didn't know what they were getting themselves into. And when Juliet was recruited by Mittelos, she was not too sure, either.

I think we should read your commentary on the podcast and be done with it! Good job.

capcom said...

Fantastic points Ange! Wow, I just read them and I will mull them over for the night and contemplate them. :-)

The biggest problem with this type of ending for LOST, is that TPTB have hinted it to us. When this story was done for The Twilight Zone, it was a total surprise and had an interesting impact. It can't work if you know what's coming around the bend. Unless of course, as everyone has said, that TPTB do it so well that we are swept off our feet. Let's keep fingers crossed.

Ange said...

Maven: I totally agree that many of the Losties have nothing to go home to, or so it seems. I was actually thinking about that while finishing Wizard of Oz.

We haven't actually seen or heard any Flight 815 survivors longing for home since pretty much season 1. Even Jack, who wants to get home the most, has nothing really good drawing him back other than the fact of it.

Capcom: I agree about the ending. When I first read the story (sheesh, in high school I think) I was so taken aback by the ending because you just didn't expect it. Lost will be like that, I just know it. Either that or we'll have our "oh yeah" moment and then rehash comments to see who had it figured out first!

Thank-you so much for taking the time to check out my thoughts. I really wish my life would cooperate more with the book club schedule, but vacations to far away places are good too;).

memphish said...

Great job Ange. There's a couple of things I noticed as links with LOST. First, maybe this finally explains why Sawyer is now from Jasper, Alabama which is in Northern Alabama, a belated shout-out to this story.

The description of Farquhar as a guy who couldn't actually be a soldier but really wanted to be one reminds me of Locke. Farquhar "long[ed] for the larger life of the soldier, the opportunity for distinction." And he was sure that opportunity would come. It's very close to Locke with his nickname of Colonel and his posters of medals and his desire for the walkabout and longing to be the hunter.

Additionally Farquhar falls for the con of the Federal spy just like Locke falls for Sawyer's in the episode. It makes me wonder why the Federals ran this con. I guess to prevent any other Confederates from getting the bright idea of taking out the bridge by holding up this example of Farquhar and possibly also as a morale boost to their own troops who are all there to watch.

The story also reminds me of Charlie and his million ways to die. "To be hanged and drowned," [Farquhar] thought? "that is not so bad; but I do not wish to be shot." Of course the description of Farquhar's neck with the black marks from the rope calls back Charlie's post-Ethan hanging as well.

Trying to free his hands and thinking if I can just free my hands I can escape reminded me of Kate and her repeated need to have handcuffs or other hand restraints removed.

Of course the big question with respect to this story and LOST is are we having a Timmy Westphall moment? I agree that the incredibly detailed description and vividness of the surroundings just before the moment of death easily play into the theory that the entire series of LOST is taking place once the oxygen masks fell but before the crash where they all die; Jack's flash forward excepted.

The description of the silhoutted soldiers reminded me of the end of Ep 2.2 where we first see the people Jin thinks are the Others.

The "cold, pitiless" voice the captain uses to direct the soldiers to shoot Farquhar reminds me of the detachedness we often see when it comes to Ben's Others -- their often utter lack of true emotion; the fact that dealing with the survivors of Flight 815 is just part of their job.

2 more things. The description leading up to the Whispers of the "stange constellations . . . arranged in some order which had a secret and malign significance" reminds me of various theories involving the star shots we occasionally get plus Karl's lame Teddy Bear constellation and the constellation chart in Ben's house.

And finally, I love that line "He had no wish to perfect his escape -- was content to remain in that enchanting spot until retaken." But of course, he doesn't remain there, even in his fantasy. There is something more spurring him on.

And this is the thing for the survivors of Flight 815 also. Even Locke who could have been content just to sit on the beach needed something more, some purpose. That's why the Others treatment of the LOSTies is so frustrating to me. People need something more than mere existence and absent a reason to stay and be part of the Island, of course, it's going to be to go home. Ben's clearly given his recruited people projects to fulfill this desire for purpose. His big mistake, in my book, was not doing that for the rest of the survivors.

memphish said...

I forgot to metion, the author of the story Ambrose Bierce disappeared without a trace. The Long Con also featured Glenn Miller's "Moonlight Serenade" on the radio. Miller too disappeard on a plane and was never found.

Ange said...

Memphish: As usual, your ideas and observations blow me away. I agree whole heartedly with everything you said. This: The story also reminds me of Charlie and his million ways to die. was well said, and a great observation. I really liked how you could tie elements of the story with characters from the show. That was something I was only able to do a little bit, as I think I was just trying desperately to justify why this book would be used in the show.

Also, holding up this example of Farquhar and possibly also as a morale boost to their own troops who are all there to watch.

That, it seems, is exactly reflective of what Cindy and the others that came with her were doing. Maybe they were there to watch as a way to keep them in line and not be running around helping the Losties.

AdamSmithAcademy said...

There is a free streaming video of "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge here: