The speaker of the story, who speaks as a first-person narrator, is not named. We may conclude that he has had a good deal of experience with small boats, and with the language of sailors. His concentration shifts in the course of the story. At first, he seems to be aware of all four men on the boat, collectively, and he makes observations that permit us to understand the ideas and responses of the men, who are linked in a virtual “brotherhood” because of their having been stranded on a tiny boat amid the high waves that are menacing their existence (paragraph 9).
At about paragraph 49, however, the speaker shifts his concentration primarily to the correspondent, while he describes the other men more dramatically. Might we assume that at this point, Crane is merging the speaker of the story with his own voice, as nearly as we can determine it? Throughout, the speaker introduces some of his own ideas, and also, at times, speaks ironically. This accounts for some of the more humorous expressions in the story.
Thus, the speaker comments wryly that the men, while rushing from the sinking ship to save themselves, “had forgotten to eat heartily” and therefore were now being weakened with hunger (paragraph 49). The speaker is in control of the tone of his descriptions, as when he points out that the human back, to a rower, is subject to innumerable and painful kinks and knots (paragraph 82). The speaker is also observant and philosophical, as when he comments that the four men at sea need to turn their heads to contemplate the “lonely and indifferent shore” (paragraph 206).
The story’s final sentence, about the fact that the three surviving men can be “interpreters,” is suggestive of a good deal of thought and observation that could lead beyond the content of the story. Though the point of view is third-person limited-omniscient, Crane’s merging of his thoughts with the narrator’s would not be as effective, not as dramatic, or objective, for it is this third-person distance that Crane feels would be most suitable for his idea that men are insignificant compared to the forces of nature, or nature itself.
The point is driven home well with his particular point of view: another or different point of view would cloud his message and obscure his central theme: a different point of view would be too emotional, too fraught with survivability. The white heron is told from a third-person omniscient point-of-view, one that is aware of both Sylvia’s hopes and aspirations, and the hardships that she will encounter as she strives to achieve them. The constancy of the tree is noted from the very beginning with Sylvia’s recognition that “[in the] dark boughs [of the tree]… he wind always, stirred, no matter how hot and still the air might be below… ” It is from this stillness that Sylvia begins her journey “with tingling eager blood” and apprehension of the point at which she must make “the dangerous pass from one tree to the other, [when] the great enterprise would really begin. ” This image of making the transition from a smaller tree to a larger more dangerous one is a symbol of Sylvia leaving the realm of her early childhood to begin facing the challenges of becoming an adult.
At first, “Sylvia felt her way uneasily,” but as she crosses trees and feels the support of the old pine, she becomes “his new dependent. ” The pine is likened to “a great main mast to voyaging earth,” a simile which is followed by the author’s personification of the way in which it “h [olds] away the winds” to protect the “solitary gray-eyed child” just as a father would do. The narrative pace of the passage varies from being restrained and held back as Sylvia prepares for her adventure, to increasing in speed slightly once she changes trees, to finally reaching a climax once she reaches the top.
It is this fast progression from her climbing and feelings of support from the tree to this climactic awakening that aids in communicating the true extent of Sylvia’s growth. The “spark of human spirit” that the tree’s “ponderous frame” helps to lift to the top quickly easily becomes “a pale star,” trembling and tired, but wholly triumphant. ” Bierce tells “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” in three parts. Part I is in objective third-person point of view except for the last three paragraphs. In objective third-person narration, the storyteller observes events but cannot enter the mind of any character and disclose his or her thoughts.
In the last three paragraphs of the Part I, the narration shifts to omniscient (all-knowing) third-person point of view in relation to Peyton Farquhar. This shift enables Bierce to take the reader inside Farquhar’s mind to demonstrate how emotional upheaval alters not only the way the mind interprets reality but also the way it perceives the passage of time. First, Farquhar mistakes the ticking of his watch for the tolling of a bell or the ring of an anvil struck by a hammer. Then, after Farquhar drops from the bridge at the moment of execution, he perceives a single second as lasting hours.
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