Old Man at the Bridge by Ernest Hemingway

Old Man at the Bridge | Summary of the story

The story “Old Man at the Bridge” is set against the background of the Spanish Civil War in 1938. It depicts how wars change our lives, our minds and our daily routine and make us anxious and panicky. The story begins with the portrayal of an old man who was sitting at a bridge. It was a war-like circumstance as the Fascists powers were progressing towards the Ebro.

The narrator, a news journalist, was in the charge to cross a pontoon bridge to check the headway of the enemy powers. He saw that an old man with steel-rimmed spectacles and dusty garments was sitting adjacent to the road at the bridge while carts, trucks and people were crossing the pontoon bridge to get sheltered safe from the enemies. The old man looked excessively tired. He could not walk any further.

The Old Man at The Bridge

Seeing the old man staying there for quite a while, the speaker went to him and asked him where he came from. The old person replied that he had come from San Carlos, his local town, twelve kilometres from there. The man grinned as it was a delight to him to mention his local land.

At that point, the speaker sat down to talk with that man and came to realize that the seventy-six years of age man had nobody but pets — two goats, a cat and eight pigeons. They were his family and he invested his time and energy taking care of the animals. Since the enemy powers were approaching nearer, he was requested to leave the place. So he was compelled to leave his pets on their destiny. The old man was unable to understand what might happen to his family — the pets. He imagines that the cat would be capable to take care of itself. But what would happen to the pigeons and the goats? He requests that the narrator think about what might happen to his pets? The speaker reassured him that they will be fine. He further asked whether he left the pigeon cage unlocked. As the old man replied in assertive, he proposes that they will fly. However, he can’t throw light on the fate of the goats.

Then, our narrator asked the man to get up and endeavour to walk further as he would now take off. The man attempted to walk but could not. Helplessly, he sat down once again in the dust.

Subsequently, the narrator mentions that it was Easter Sunday and a dark cloudy day. He completes his story by remarking that there was nothing for the old person with the exception of the certainties that the enemy planes were not up in the sky for the overcast weather and that the cat can take care of themselves.

READ ALSO:  The Hitchcock Movie of Rebecca

The Old Man at The Bridge: Analysis
Published in 1938

The story “The Old Man at the Bridge” is about a discussion between a news columnist and an old person who needed to leave the place where he grew up amid the Spanish Civil War. Hemingway was selected by the North American Newspaper Association (NANA) however he clearly chose to write it as a short story rather than a news article. As the title”Old Man at the Bridge” proposes, the story spins around the old person. This short and basic story is an incredible delineation of how war influences the lives of ordinary citizens who are “without political issues”. The old man has nothing to do with the approaching war. Yet, he had to leave his home and his darling pets whom he views as his family.

When the Scout sees the old man sitting at the bridge and talks with him. The old man continues to talk about his animals and how he is worried about how they will survive. He states the cat can take care of itself, but that he is worried about the others. At first he tells the Scout he has 2 pigeons, but they are later changed to Doves when asked if the door was open so they could flyaway, now remember that Doves are a sign of peace in war, so them flying away could be like the loss of peace. The old man also has some goats, animal of sacrifice through history, they could also be therefore the term, Scape-Goat. Thus we can say that the Old Man at the Bridge is a story about how an old Man, who has no political connections or family suffered the loss of everything because of war. He was just taking care of animals in the place where he grew up.

The man’s affection for his local town is communicated in his grin while uttering the name of San Carlos. In addition, his blamelessness and love for the creatures are very clear in the story. In any case, such an old man was compelled to leave his local place and his pets — his solitary motivation behind life. Furthermore, he is presently left on the hands of destiny. The creator has attempted to draw our sensitivity for the man by depicting the integrity in his character.

The Old Man at The Bridge

Ernest Hemingway worked as a foreign reporter in Europe for a considerable length of time before he turned into a successful freelancer of stories, books, novels and nonfiction. In the same way as other foreign journalists who had to pack a ton of data into brief dispatches under crisis conditions, Hemingway searches for sights and occurrences that would speak to the master plan of what was happening.

Hemingway was thoughtful to the Loyalist cause. After Franco’s triumph, Hemingway declined to come back to Spain, a nation he adored. He chronicled the Spanish Civil War in what is generally viewed as his best novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940). The import of the title is that we all had endured an annihilation alongside the Spanish Loyalists. The title was gotten from a lyric by John Donne, a main English Metaphysical writer.

READ ALSO:  J. C. Bose By Aldous Huxley : Summary and Questions

What Old Man Symbolises?

The elderly man could be said to symbolize the staggering effect that war has on common people. The elderly man has no political sensitivities; he’s totally innocuous. However, he can’t escape the harsh, wicked clash that appears to chase after him wherever he goes. He’s as of now needed to desert the place where he grew up and every one of the animals he’d been thinking about. Presently, with the approaching landing of Fascist powers, he’s compelled to proceed onward once more, only one of the numerous guiltless regular people made up for a lost time amidst the Spanish Civil War.

The old man may have believed that, since he’s never been a political person, he could some way or another stay over the shred, giving the opposite sides a chance to continue ahead with battling one another while he approaches his common life, thinking about his animals in San Carlos. But, in this period of aggregate war, such separation is incomprehensible. Regardless, everybody is associated with the war in one frame or other, even those quiet, safe spirits like the elderly person, who speaks to no danger to anybody.

Thus, the elderly man can be viewed as an image of crushed liberal democracy in Spain, maybe even the thrashing of the desires for liberal vote based system everywhere throughout the world. He is wearing dark dusty garments and has a dim dusty face, showcasing what he has experienced. He is excessively tired making it impossible to go any further. In the event that he stays where he is sitting, he would likely get summarily executed by the Fascist powers, who are taking draconian retaliation against Spanish common people. Yet, he doesn’t have the solidarity to stand up and keep escaping, and he doesn’t appear to mind. He has no place to go, no future.

Themes of Old Man at The Bridge

Some of the themes present in the short story “Old Man at the Bridge” are :

1. The suffering of ordinary citizens in war

2. Man’s love for pets

3. Love for one’s native place

One striking accomplishment of Hemingway here is the vivid description of the character of the old man, the hero of the story in such a short length.

The story is described in the first person narrative technique where the speaker recounts the story from his edge. The dialect utilized is extremely clear and the conversational style makes the story all the more lively. The story is an extraordinary precedent of unadorned and simple style curious to Hemingway.

The Old Man at The Bridge | Thinking About The Text

1. Why were the old man’s clothes dusty? Why did he not cross the bridge?

Answer: The old man’s garments were dusty because he had come through a large distance on foot along an ankle-deep dusty road. He didn’t cross the bridge because he was excessively tired to proceed any farther.

READ ALSO:  The Geeta and the Swadharma by Vinoba Bhave Summary and Questions With Answers

2. Why did the old man leave San Carlo? Why did the old man want to go to Barcelona?
Answer: A captain had told him that there would be some use of artillery in San Carlos. He had exhorted the old man to leave for a secure zone. So he was constrained to leave his living place and the pet animals whom he regarded his family.
He wanted to go to Barcelona because the trucks were heading towards it and he had no other alternative.

3. “Oh I said not quite understanding …. “what was it about the old man‟s statement, “ I was taking care of animals; what was it that the narrator did not understand?

Answer: The narrator was unable to understand what animals the old man was taking care of. He didn’t resemble a shepherd or herder.

4. Where did the narrator expect the approaching battle to take place?

Answer: The narrator expected the approaching battle to take place sooner or later at some point across the bridge.

5. “It’s better not to think about the others”. What does the old man mean by “the others”? why does he say so?

Answer: It is better not to think about the others. By ‘the others’ the old man implies his two goats. He imagines that his cat can take care of itself and the pigeons can fly. However, he wonders what will happen to his goats.

6. Did the old man look upon his animals as his family? What made him worry about them? What did the old man fear would harm his animals?
Answer: The old man views his pets as his family. He cherished them to the degree that he could not imagine his existence without them. He was worried he had to leave them behind and go himself to a secure place. He feared that artillery fire would harm his pet animals.

7. The old man was a victim of the war, but he had no wish to play a part in it. How do you come to know of this in the story?

Answer: The old man did not talk anything other than his animals. He mentions that he had no politics. It didn’t make a difference to him which side wins or loses. He didn’t have anything to do with the impending animals. At the same time, he had to leave his home and his cherished pets whom he regarded as his family.

8. Wars have an adverse effect on our lives. How does the story bring out this truth?

Answer: Wars cause decimation and adversely affect our lives. Wars make people leave their homes and become refugees. The old man of the story had to leave his pet animals which he cherished very much. Hence in wars, a nation loses populace and there is substantial harm to the economy. So, all the people of San Carlos had to migrate. They had to take protection in an outsider land as outcasts.

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below to subscribe to our newsletter

One comment

Have something to say

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.