2. Death is a dignitary who when he comes announced is to be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him.

Although most of “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” maintains a consistent tone, there are several moments, such as in this quotation from the end of the second paragraph of the story, where a brief shift in tone appears. This quotation, which reflects Bierce’s penchant for aphorisms and epigrams, breaks the silent and formal way the Union forces prepare for Farquhar’s hanging. The troops take their duties seriously, and there is a ritualistic quality to the event. Bierce asserts that their hushed attention is a form of respect to the man they are under orders to execute. Though death is not unexpected for Farquhar—the disguised Northern scout had warned Farquhar of this potential punishment during their brief exchange at the plantation—he is ultimately unable to accept it. Rather than “respect” the magnitude of the moment, he resists death by unspooling an elaborate fantasy of an alternate fate.