What I learned at Owl Creek Bridge
Tonight in class I was happy to be teaching "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." What a fun story to tear apart. It messes with the reader, and one has to ask, does the gimmick work? There isn't really that much to the story after all, but oh, what twists and turns it takes. Poor Peyton Farquhar. Or is he?
I assigned this story, thinking it would be a nice change of pace. It is not difficult, and it does some really interesting things with detail and sensory articulation. It's fun to break apart.
One of my students insisted that she hated the story. Another said he'd read it a time and a half, because he read it as a kid. And both of them had completely incorrect "takes" on it. That's what happens when you don't read it for reading's sake.
The girl insisted it was about suicide. Hmm. No.
The boy was blown away by the details that he'd overlooked. When he was 13. I'm telling you, folks, teaching young people is occasionally a challenge. He is now 20 and still taking shortcuts.
The idea of suicide evidently came from a mistaken HS analysis. She insisted her teacher presented it that way.
Now, I'm the first to know that students don't always report teacher commentary faithfully, so I take that with a grain of salt, but if that teacher IS teaching this story as a suicide story, I weep.
But most importantly, what I thought about after class tonight, was that I am expected to do my job, and that is to present, enlighten, articulate, draw out and help students polish their own ideas about literature. And TRULY, you CAN have original ideas about literature. But sometimes, you can also just be flat out WRONG. So, when your instructor assigns a reading that perhaps you have read before, you might want to re-read it anyway--even if you have it memorized. Trust me on this. And that is the student's job. Do the work you are paying to do. Your instructor truly is not there to torture you, but is, hopefully, there to help you become a little more thoughtful.
Wanted: a good set of sentences to grab you from the depths of the internet. I keep trying to catch your eye.