Feel just like a fish in water

Themes expressed by “The Old Man at the Bridge” story The of “The Old Man at the Bridge” addresses several themes in the story. According to Frenz, Ernest Hemingway who is the author of the short story was working as a volunteer in an ambulance unit for the Italian army. He later moved on to serve as a messenger and after retirement, Hemingway used the experience as a reporter in the war to write several stories and novels that capture several themes related to consequences of war (1).
To begin with, the story portrays a theme of gap or difference in age and thoughts between the old man and the narrator. The old man is depicted to have a different line of thought compared to the narrator. This is shown by how the old man responds to the questions asked by the narrator. When asked about where he comes from, the old man responds by saying that he comes from San Carlos and smiles after answering. This means that the man values where he comes from and the place is so dear to him that even remembering the place makes him happy. The smile by the old man captures the attention of the narrator because it was not normal to smile because of mentioning a name of a place.
On the same case, the narrator is amazed by the fact that the old man is the last person to leave the village because of the animals he takes care of. This is evident when the narrator asks the old man about the animals that made him to be the last person to leave the village despite the risk of being attacked by the armies. The narrator is surprised by the old man because of the attachment he placed on the animals left in the village. The fact that the old man is advised to leave the village by a major also signifies the difference in thoughts and perception between the old person and the narrator.
Theme of desperation is also addressed by the story. This shown when the narrator asks the old man to continue walking down the road to catch up with a truck heading to Barcelona and the old man instead thanks the narrator. In addition, the old man seems tired and cannot walk anymore because of his age. The old man seems more concerned with the fate of the animals than his own fate. This means that the old man had already despaired and was sure that he was not going to survive for a long time. The fact that the narrator tells us the old man tried to wake up but sunk back down also displays the level of desperation by the old man. In addition, the narrator tries to explain the fate of the animals to the old man to calm and encourage him to continue with the journey but the old man is not convinced and opts to remain at the bridge.
Further, the old man tells the narrator that he has no political stand and that he is old and cannot walk anymore after the twelve kilometer journey he had already made to the bridge. The fact that the narrator interrogates the old man to give him hope and later leaves him at the bridge is also a symbol of desperation. This is because the narrator has nothing else to help the old man with apart from convincing him that the animals will take care of themselves but still the old man was left worried about the goats at the village.
A theme of impending death is also demonstrated by the short story. This is shown by the conversation that the narrator ensues with the old man. The narrator is shown be nervous about the advent of the Fascist army and the aftermath of the war between the two groups. The narrator shows how much he is worried about the war by advising the old man to continue with his journey and should not stay for long at the bridge. This shows that the narrator is obviously sure that the old man will be killed by the Fascist army if found at the bridge.
The theme of impending death is also shown by the way the old man worries about the animals left in San Carlos village. The old man is worried that the animals will be affected by the warring groups. In the same instance, the narrator tries to comfort the old man that the animals will take care of themselves but the question of how the goats and cat will take care of themselves clearly demonstrates the theme of impending death. The old man is somehow convinced that the four pigeons can take care of themselves since they can fly. When the question about the fate of goats and cat arose, the old man replied by saying “Its better not to think about the others” (Hemingway 1). This means that the old man is sure that the goats and cat were going to die.
A theme of resignation and tough life is also captured in the story. The narrator introduces the old man as a person with “steel rimmed spectacles and very dusty clothes” (Hemingway 1). This depicts the old man is a person undergoing a very tough life and has very little or nothing that can improve his life. In addition, the narrator starts a conversation with the old man on his way back from the enemy side. This means that the old had already resigned his ambition of going far from the enemy side. The fact that the old man is advised by a major to get out of the village and walks for twelve kilometers on foot demonstrates how life is tough and transportation means are not readily available. In addition, the narrator also passes via the bridge on foot and advices the old man to walk further in order to catch up with a truck heading to Barcelona. Resignation is also shown by the fact that the old man has no political affiliation despite the fact that politics affect his life.
In conclusion, Hemingway has addressed several themes that are related to effects of civil war. This narration also seems to be based on personal experience of Hemingway as a corresponded to the American Newspaper Alliance during the Spanish civil war as outlined by Benson and Jackson in their book titled ‘New Critical Approaches to the Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway’. Therefore, the short story “The Old Man at the Bridge” brings out a picture of societies in war prone regions.
Works Cited
Benson, Jackson J. New Critical Approaches to the Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. Durham: Duke University Press, 1990. Print
Frenz, H. “Ernest Hemingway – Biographical.” Norbel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967 (1969). Print.
Watson, William Braasch. "Old Man At The Bridge": The Making Of A Short Story." Hemingway Review 7.2 (1988): 152-165. Academic Search Premier. Web. 31 Mar. 2014