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Old man at the bridge ernest hemingway

Taken from his The Complete Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed soldier and after reading the story the reader realises that Hemingway may be exploring the theme of struggle.

The old man cannot move. He is unable to follow the lead of those who are crossing the bridge.

Old Man at the Bridge by Ernest Hemingway

It is as though his journey may be over without reaching any destination. The reader suspecting that the old man who has already walked twelve kilometres has made his last stand. Which is ironic considering that the old man is sitting down for most if not all of the story. He is beaten or defeated by the worry he has for his animals, the fact that he is in his seventies and the ongoing war Spanish Civil War. He remains committed to each animal. His own safety does not appear to bother him as much as the safety of the animals which may suggest that the old man is selfless.

The bridge itself may also be symbolically important as Hemingway may be using it to not only symbolise a path to safety but to also suggest that in life there will come a time when a person is not able to cross every bridge that they come to.

  • Cite Post McManus, Dermot;
  • The old man's hometown of San Carlos is being evacuated because of artillery fire, and he sits at the roadside before the bridge crossing, too tired to walk;
  • His one attempt to stand up leads to him having to sit down again;
  • The old man tells the soldier that he was forced to leave behind two goats, one cat, and four pairs of doves;
  • His journey has come to an end;
  • At the beginning of the story he is sitting down and at the end of the story he is also sitting down.

Which is very much the case for the old man. As mentioned he is defeated or beaten by the war. A war that he himself has played no part in. Which may be important as Hemingway may be suggesting that the old man is independent of others. Something that is also noticeable by the fact that out of all the characters mentioned in the story. The old man is the only one who is not moving.

  1. The old man has been beaten by the circumstances of the time.
  2. The Sitting Bee, 22 Feb.
  3. The image of the risen Christ is not unlike the image of the old man's doves being released from their cage—both are symbols of hope and peace.
  4. The soldier, while anticipating contact with the enemy, expresses concern about the man's safety and encourages him to continue moving.

He stands out independent of others. Something that becomes clearer to the reader when the old man tells the narrator that he knows no one in Barcelona.

It is also interesting that when the old man mentions his home town there is a sense of pride in his voice. He is proud of where he comes from despite the circumstances he finds himself in.

At the beginning of the story he is sitting down and at the end of the story he is also sitting down. In the same spot. His one attempt to stand up leads to him having to sit down again. Though the old man may be proud this may be all the fight that the he has in him. Though he wants no part in the war he knows that the war is a part of him. His life is in the hands of others. In reality the old man no longer has control of his destiny.

Any chance he has of escaping the Fascists is by crossing the bridge.

Old Man at the Bridge Summary

Something that the old man will not do. It may simply be a case that the old man realises that where he is sitting is where he will die. Due to his age and his commitment to his roots the old man may feel as though he has no other option but to stay where he is.

It is as though the old man is paralysed and unable to move. There is nothing the narrator can do to help the old man change his mind.

Both the narrator and the old man are on different paths but both accept the path they are on. It is clear to the reader that the narrator is younger than the old man.

So he has yet to be beaten. Also the fact that he is a soldier symbolically suggests he is prepared to fight.

  1. Both the narrator and the old man are on different paths but both accept the path they are on.
  2. The old man's view of himself as a guardian of animals contrasts ironically with the soldier's identity as a killer of people. Which is very much the case for the old man.
  3. It is as though his journey may be over without reaching any destination.
  4. Which is very much the case for the old man.
  5. Something that is also noticeable by the fact that out of all the characters mentioned in the story. Both the narrator and the old man are on different paths but both accept the path they are on.

Something that the old man will not or cannot do. He wants the simplicity that he had prior to the war to return. He was obviously happier then so it is only natural that the old man would long for a return to happiness and simplicity.

He will not be that lucky.

  • Which may be important as Hemingway may be suggesting that the old man is independent of others;
  • Which may be important as Hemingway may be suggesting that the old man is independent of others;
  • It is as though the old man is paralysed and unable to move;
  • Something that the old man will not do.

The old man has been beaten by the circumstances of the time. His journey has come to an end. Cite Post McManus, Dermot. The Sitting Bee, 22 Feb.