PF then feels that he is the centre of a cloud, that he is the fiery heart. He feels himself swinging in oscillating arcs like a pendulum. The language used here is strange as well; it’s like describing something that would happen in a dream. All of a sudden the rope breaks and he falls into the stream. All these events are unlikely to have ever happened, because they are of a far-fetched nature. As he is floating down the stream, he manages to break the rope that has bound his hands together. This is near impossible, because he also has to try to breath and swim at the same time.
PF is now floating down the stream above the water. He looks at his surroundings, and somehow his vision has become enhanced and he can see every little detail, more than the human eye can see. It says, “saw the individual trees, the leaves and the veining of each leaf, saw the very insects upon them, the locusts, the brilliant bodied flies, the grey spiders, stretching their webs from twig to twig. He noted the prismatic colour in all the dewdrops upon the millions of blades of grass, the humming of the gnats above the eddies of the stream, the beating of the dragon flies wings, the strokes of the water spiders legs, like oars which had lifted their boats.” Note the way this is written, like a poem, very detailed language. All this suggests that his senses are working in overdrive. This is a very good thing to point out that he is dreaming.
Next, the soldiers up on the ridge begin to fire at him. If you remember from earlier in the story, there is a whole company of soldiers up on the ridge, yet none of them seem to be able to hit him. PF notices that one of the soldiers has grey eyes, and that they are the best marksmen. Yet still he survives. Its like what he wants to happen, is happening, like a dream would. He manages to get out of the river, and starts heading for home through the forest. He can’t find his way out of this forest, because there seems to be no breaks in it at all. PF even notices that this is a strange occurrence. PF finds a road when it reaches nightfall. He feels that he can’t go on, but he thinks of his wife and children, this keeps him going.
The last thing that happens to PF is he can no longer feel the road beneath him. This is very strange. Then he arrives at his house, and sees his wife and children, He tries to reach out and grab them, but a pain in his neck appears and he begins to see white lights. Suddenly, all becomes dark and silent. Now we defiantly know that he was dreaming the whole thing and that it really all happened in a flash. PF is now dead. Using the story we will answer a series of questions and look at the theme, narrative technique, structure and point of view. Here is the narrator’s opinion of war, soldiers and military matters.
In the 1st paragraph the narrator speaks of the position the sentinels are standing in. “the position known as “support,” that is to say, vertical in front of the left soldier, the hammer resting on the forearm thrown straight across the chest- a formal and unnatural position, enforcing an erect carriage of the body.” The narrator seems to know about this position, and he knows you have to force yourself into this position. This suggests that he has been in the army, how else could you know this. He doesn’t like it though; he probably didn’t like doing it either. The soldiers have probably been ordered to stand this way, because they have no need to know what is going on upon the bridge, neither is it their duty to know.
There was a company of soldiers standing watching what was happening. The narrator says they were, “staring stonily, motionless,” and, “they might have been statues to adorn the bridge.” All this emphasises that they were not allowed to move. If they did they probably would have been shot. The narrator uses really dreary words to describe the soldiers; he mustn’t really like them too much. Later on the narrator says that the army will hang anyone who does anything wrong. This suggests more disapproval of the army; he doesn’t see why they act like they do. He probably was in the army at one stage, and this is probably the reason he left, because he doesn’t believe the things they do to be right.
What sort of man is PF? PF is quite a rich planter from an Alabama family. He owns slaves, so he must be a racist as well. According to the writer, PF looks around 35 years old. From the clothes he wore you could tell he was a civilian, a planter even. His facial looks are said to be good, a straight nose, firm mouth, broad forehead. He has combed back long dark hair. He has a moustache, and a pointed beard. It says he has a, “Kindly expression.” The narrator quite likes this man, and probably feels sorry for him. The narrator says he is no vulgar assassin and the army will hang anyone who does something wrong, even a gentleman.
PF is a politician, and is devoted to the southern cause. “Circumstances of an imperious nature which it is unnecessary to relate here, had prevented him from taking service with the gallant army.” I think its because his wife wouldn’t let him. From this we can deduce that he has a big interest in military matters and he feels that his chance to join the army would come in time. We find out that PF’s wife is “the man” of the house. When the soldier comes, he waits till she’s gone before asking him about the war. He feels his wife would stop him from doing this. PF also enjoys an adventure, because he asks the soldiers ways that he could help out. But PF does not know that this soldier is a spy from the other side, and falls straight into his trap.