Summary

        It was Easter Sunday when an old man of seventy six years with 'steel rimmed spectacles was so tired that he could not go further. He st "by the side of the road". To cross the pontoon bridge was the task of the narrator, a republican soldier, 'to find out what point the enemy had advanced. The narrator returned over the bridge where there were not' so many carts, and very few people on foot. The narrator started to have a talk with the old man with 'steel-rimmed spectacles and very dusty clothes. He asked the man where he came from. The old man smiled with the answer.

     San Carlos was his native town. To utter the name of his native town was an immense pleasure to him. He explained that he had been taking care of the animals. He said that he was the last one to leave the town of San Carlos. He had to leave his own native town as he was told to leave because of the artillery. He had travelled twelve kilometers; being worn out, he sat beside the road. The narrator, a republican army, while talking to the old man, thought that the fascists might come into contact at any time. Looking at the bridge the narrator wondered how long now it would be before they would see the enemy and listened "to all the while for the first noises that would signal that ever mysterious event called contact." The narrator asked the old man about his animals. The narrator came to conclude that the old man did not look like a shepherd nor a shepherd. The narrator looked at the dusty cloth of the old man. 

    The old man had two goats, a cat and four pairs of pigeons. He had no family. His only concern was to look after those animals. He knew that the cat of course would be all right as a cat 'look out for itself'; but he could not know what would happen to others. The narrator felt that it was not the proper place to converse with such an old man; so, he urged the old man to walk up on the road to take the trucks up towards Barcelona. The old man was asked about his politics. He replied that He was without any politics. He had traveled twelve kilometers, he could go no further. 

    The old man, being spontaneous, thanked the narrator. He, having a grave concern, continuously said about his animals. The narrator assured him that they would be fine. 'To share his worry with someone' the old man, looking at the narrator 'very blankly and tiredly' said that he was sure that the cat would be fine. But his only concern was of the other animals under such artillery.

     The pigeon would surely fly as the old man left the "dove cage unlocked". At the end, he thought not to think about the others he left behind. He got into the fact of what the animals would face under such artillery for which he had to leave his own native town leaving behind those which he was only taking care for. The narrator had nothing to do for the old man. The old man had only the luck that a cat could "look out for itself". "The planes were not up" as the fascists were unable to do this because of "a gray overcast day with a low ceiling".


An outline history of the publication

     The Old Man at the Bridge is a short story, written by Ernest Hemingway in 1938. It was first published in Ken magazine (Vol. 1 No. 4., May 19th, 1938). It was then collected in The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories which is an anthology of writings of Ernest Hemingway published by Scribner's in 1938.

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