|Old Man At The Bridge|
(i). What is a pontoon bridge? Why are many people crossing the bridge?
Ans. Pontoon bridge is the floating bridge that is made of large hollow containers filled with air. The story is set during the Spanish Civil war, so many people are crossing the bridge to protect themselves from the attack of enemy troops.
(ii). Where is the old man sitting? Unlike others, why doesn’t he move?
Ans. The old man was sitting on one side of the road on the bridge. Unlike others, he doesn't move because he was too old (76 years) and also too tired to go any farther as he had already walked twelve kilometers since he had left his hometown, San Carlos.
(iii). Who is the speaker in the above extract? Why is he there?
Ans. The unnamed narrator, who is an army scout is the speaker in the above lines. He is there because it is his mission to cross the bridge and find out how far the enemy had advanced.
(iv). What is the first question that the narrator asks the old man? What does he answer? Why does the old man smile?
Ans. The first question asked by the narrator to the old man is that “Where do you come from?”
The old man replied, “ San Carlos”, and he smiled because of the mention of his native town gave him pleasure.
(v). Why is the old man the last one to leave his town? Describe his physical appearance.
Ans. The old man was the last to leave his town because he was very consent of his animals, so, he was taking care of his animals. The old man was 76 years old and wore dusty tore clothes and steel-rimmed spectacles. His face was grey and dusty.
(i). Who is referred to as He in the extract above? In what condition is he?
Ans. The Old man is referred to as 'He'. He is in a weary condition as he has already walked twelve kilometres and too tired to move further. Moreover, his clothes are black and dusty and his face has turned grey, he had worn steel-rimmed spectacles.
(ii). What all animals did he own? What kind of relationship did he share with them?
Ans. He had two goats, a cat and four pairs of pigeons. He has a very close relationship with the animals. The animals were his family; he loved them and cared for them so much that separating from them made him feel that he had lost his reason for existence.
(iii). What did he do with the animals? What forced him to do so?
Ans. He left the animals behind in his native town of San Carlos. The heavy firing from the enemy with artillery forced him to do so.
(iv). Why doesn’t the old man cross the bridge and escape to a safer place?
Ans. The old man doesn't want to leave his town because of his animals. Moreover, he had already travelled twelve kilometres, so he was too tired to go any further. He was weak, the old man had no family and he had left his animals behind, he felt helpless as he couldn’t save his animals; he surrendered himself to his fate.
(v). What do the incidents in the story show about the consequences of the war? How does war affect the old man and his animals in the story?
Ans. The Spanish Civil War forms the background to the story and Hemingway depicts how in times of war man acts inhumanly to his own race. War causes death and destruction, and this is highlighted through the condition of the old man who can be seen as the symbol of civilian victims of war. The old man gives meaning to his life by taking care of his animals, but the war takes away everything from him. He sits alone by the side of the road; he is as helpless as his goats; he cannot escape and is too old and tired to save himself.
(i). What does the old man mean when he states, “ I am without politics”? Why does he mention his age?
Ans. By giving this statement he means that he does not belong to any political party and he is a common man. Like other innocent civilians what matters to him is his home and animals rather than politics. He mentions his age along with the fact that he had already walked twelve kilometres to reflect the extent of his weariness and inability to walk further.
(ii). Describe the old man’s appearance. What was he doing in San Carlos?
Ans. The old man was 76 years old and wore dusty tore clothes and steel-rimmed spectacles. His face was grey and dusty. In San Carlos, he was taking care of his animals.
(iii). The narrator says “ This is not a good place to stop.” Which place is he referring to? Why is it not advisable to halt there?
Ans. The place referred to is a war zone at a pontoon bridge across the Ebro river. The place is 12 kilometres from San Carlos in Spain. It was not advisable to halt there because
(iv). What advice does the narrator give to the old man? How does the old man react to it?
Ans. The narrator (army scout) advised the old man to cross the bridge and catch a truck towards Barcelona. But the old man replied that he did not know anyone there. However, he thanked the narrator for his suggestion and continued to express his concern for the fate of the animals he had left behind.
(v) Explain why the old man finally resigns to his fate. What is the old man's fate symbolic of? Do you think the old man could have changed his fate? Give reasons to justify your answer.
Ans. The old man gives meaning to his life by taking care of his animals, but the war takes away everything from him. Separation from them makes him feel that he has lost the reason for existence. The old man like his goats has no one to take care of him and thus surrender himself to his fate.
The fate of the old man is clearly symbolized by his pet animals and birds, namely, the cat, the two goats and the four pairs of pigeons. He is concerned a lot about the fate of these animals by which the author actually defines the fate of the old man. The cat can lead a life on its own and hence symbolizes independence and the people who will survive in the war. The two goats symbolize the sacrifice or death of the poor people of the war going to occur. The four pairs of pigeons symbolize the people who are leaving their houses due to the fear of the ill effects of war which is going to occur in their town. Sadly and unfortunately, the goats which are going to die symbolizes the fate of the old man i.e. death.
The old man cannot change his fate because he had no reason to live, he was worried about the animals like cat, pigeon and goat. He was only worried about the animals. he was very tired and had no more capacity to walk.
(i). Why does the old man look blank and tired? How can you say that the old man needed someone to talk to?
Ans. The man was forced to flee from his native town, leaving behind his only family i.e. his animals. He was concerned for them but did not know what to do. It made him blank. Moreover, he was 76 years old man who had already travelled twelve kilometres so he was tired. The manner in which the old man engaged in a conversation with the narrator and told him about his village and animals shows that he needed someone to talk to.
(ii). What is the cause of the old man’s worry and guilt?
Ans. The old man believed that he must watch over the cat, the goat and the pigeons in San Carlos. The old man was not able to fulfil responsibilities so was guilty and wondered what would the animals do in his absence.
(iii). Explain how the story brings out the conflict between the man and his inner self.
Ans. The story has two levels of conflicts. One of the conflicts is that between man and his inner self which is seen in the character of the old man. The old man is guilty of leaving his animals behind for the fear of fire by the artillery. Man against another man is the other conflict in the story. In times of war, a man causes pain and suffering to another man. He fights with his own race for a seemingly greater good. In the time of war, man kills his own race for his own benefit.
iv). The old man seems to have given up on his life. Do you agree? Why?
Ans. Yes, I agree that the old man gives up on his life. It is quite evident both in the narrator’s comments and from the old man’s own speech. The old man was not concerned for his own safety. He sat by the side of the road at a pontoon bridge in the war zone. Despite repeated insistence from the narrator to save his life and to catch a truck to Barcelona, the old man paid no heed. He was preoccupied only with the fate of his animals he had left behind in San Carlos.
v). How does the narrator try to relieve the old man of his worries? Does he prove successful? Support your answer with instances from the story.
The narrator tried to relieve the old man of his worries and it affected the old man in a positive way:-
The narrator asked the old man that did he left the dove cage opened so that the four pair of pigeons could fly and safe their lives. He tries to reassure him that the animals would be fine. At regular intervals, he reminds him to cross the bridge. The narrator was not able to relieve him of his worries. The old man surrenders to his fate and till the end, he only thinks of his animals. The narrator thus realizes that nothing can be done about him and moves on leaving him at the bridge. The old man was very much consoled by the words spoken by the narrator.
i) Why does the narrator note that the old man spoke ‘dully’?
Ans. The old man has lost all hope and was filled with guilt for not being able to look after his animals. War thus doesn't only cause physical destruction but also psychological destruction.
ii). What makes the narrator feel that “ there was nothing to do about him?”
Ans. The Narrator tries to engage in a conversation and inquires if he had left the dove cage unlocked. He tries to reassure him that the animals would be fine. At regular intervals, he reminds him to cross the bridge. The narrator becomes a friend in need for the old man but he is not able to relieve him of his worries. The old man surrenders to his fate and till the end, he only thinks of his animals. The narrator thus realizes that nothing can be done about him and moves on leaving him at the bridge.
iii) State how both the narrator and the old man are depicted as helpless by the end.
Ans. The old man loved his animals so much that separating from them made him feel that he had lost his reason for existence. The old man, like his goats, cats and pigeons and had no one to take care of him and thus he surrendered to his fate. The narrator lends a kind ear to the old man and urges the man to get up and cross the bridge; the man tries but fails. The soldier feels sorry for him. Thus the story ends with the old man’s concern for his animals and the soldier’s concern for the old man.
iv) What is “all the good luck that old man would ever have?”
Ans. All the luck that he would have is that the cats could protect themselves and as the day was overcast, the Fascists would not launch their planes to attack the local people.
v). The story is set on an Easter Sunday, which symbolically shows renewal and peace. How is it ironical with reference to the events in the story?
Ans. The action of the story is set on Easter Sunday, the day when Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day after he was crucified. Thus, Easter is symbolically viewed as a welcome time of rebirth, renewal and possible change. However, for the old man at the bridge, this day meant inevitable death and the destruction of that was meaningful to him. The image of resurrected Christ is like the image of the old man’s doves being released from their cage, both being symbols of hope and peace. The soldier, however, is not hopeful about the old man’s fate-he bitterly remarks that ‘all the good luck that old man would ever have’ was the fact that the artillery planes of the enemy could not fly that day.
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