Salvation and damnation are words with opposite meanings. Salvation is the state of being restored or made new, and it involves getting rid of the old poor quality and becoming improved (Shamshiri 372). On the contrary, damnation is the state of being damned. It involves openly condemning a person to everlasting punishment in the future state (Shamshiri 372). William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily is about a lady, Miss Emily Grierson, who lived her life isolation, but her funeral was attended by everyone in town (Faulkner 2). Ambrose Bierce’s An Occurrence at Owl is about Peyton Farquhar, who prepares to be executed and dreams of escape (Bierce 12). In both of these short stories, damnation comes before salvation. In a nutshell, this paper compares and contrasts the subjects of damnation and salvation in A Rose for Emily and An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.
In A Rose for Emily, Emily is condemned because she leads an isolated life until she dies at the age of seventy-four. Emily led an isolated life because she was raised by a controlling father who drove away all her suitors (Faulkner 2). Her father believed that none of the suitors was good enough for his daughter. Consequently, Emily is left a destitute spinster after the death of her father. After her father’s death, Miss Emily was receiving much attention from the town due to her unusual status. Although she was young, slender, and good looking, she was never married. For a long time, the town believed that the Griersons felt superior to the rest of the town (Faulkner 2). However, when she turned thirty without being married, the townspeople realized that Emily was not simply turning suitors away. Instead, she was not receiving any viable offers for marriage at all. Emily becomes a companion of a lower class Northerner, Hormer Barron, which is considered a disgrace in the town’s eyes. Barron disappears never to be seen again by anyone and Emily removes herself from all public appearances and interactions until when she died. After Emily’s funeral, the townspeople explore her house to find a skeleton in her bed, which is implied to be Barron’s (Faulkner 6).
In An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, Peyton Farquhar is condemned when he is sentenced to death for attempting to burn down the Owl Creek Bridge. Farquhar is a member of an old and respected Alabama family and was ardently devoted to the Southern cause (Bierce 12). Although circumstances hindered him from joining the army, he was eager to serve the South in any way possible. One evening, a soldier asked Farquhar and his wife for water. The soldier then informed him that the Northern army was planning to advance once the bridge over Owl Creek had been repaired (Bierce 13). The soldier suggested that the bridge was poorly guarded and a brave man could easily burn it down. Farquhar took the challenge of destroying the bridge but was captured. He did not know that the soldier was a Federal scout who tricked him into burning the bridge to prevent the Union troops from crossing it. He was sentenced to death for attempting some form of sabotage (Bierce 10).
Salvation in A Rose for Emily occurs when Miss Emily dies, and the whole town attends her funeral. Men attend her funeral out of respect for the ‘fallen monument.’ Miss Emily had grown to become a legend because the Griersons were of a higher social rank and status. Moreover, the then-mayor, colonel Sartoris, remitted her taxes permanently for reasons never made clear. Meanwhile, women attend her funeral out of curiosity ‘to see the inside of her house (Faulkner 1).’ Emily’s house was considered the nicest house in the town and only her servant Tobe, had seen the inside of the house. However, after her death, the narrator discusses that the house had grown into disrepair and describes it as an ‘eyesore among eyesores (Faulkner 1).’
In An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, salvation occurs in Farquhar’s mind. Before he is executed, Farquhar imagines freeing his hands, removing the noose, plunging into the stream, and swimming to freedom, his home, outside the enemy lines (Bierce 13). In his mind, he escapes the enemy’s gunfire, and the thoughts of his family urge him on. He evades the enemy’s gunfire in the stream and runs through the forest the entire day to his home where he moves towards his wife to embrace her. However, he feels a sharp blow on the back of his neck and sees a blinding white light all about him, and silence and darkness engulf him (Bierce 18). Farquhar does not escape, and his execution is successful, his broken body swings from the side of the Owl Creek bridge when he is hanged.
In conclusion, A Rose for Emily and An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge depict the subjects of salvation and damnation. Damnation occurs when the main characters are condemned or punished. For example, Miss Emily is condemned to a life of isolation when her father turns away all her suitors and Farquhar is sentenced to death for attempting sabotage. Meanwhile, salvation occurs when the characters are restored or made new. For example, the whole town attends Miss Emily’s funeral despite leading a life of isolation and Farquhar escapes and saves his life in his mind.
Bierce, Ambrose. An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.
Faulkner, William. A Rose for Emily.
Shamshiri, Mohammadreza. “Salvation and Damnation in Plato and Avicenna’s View.” International Journal of Humanities and Cultural Studies, 2016, pp. 371-384.