There are times when people are made helpless by situations beyond their control. Justify this statement in the context of the story “Old Man at the Bridge.”

The statement that there are times when people are made helpless by situations beyond their control is entirely appropriate to the context of “Old Man at the Bridge.” The old man has indeed been made helpless by situations beyond his control. His whole life has been disrupted by the Spanish Civil War. Forced to move from his home town, he now has to move on again if he’s to avoid the imminent arrival of the fascists.

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Old Man at the Bridge” is a very moving account of how ordinary people are invariably the victims of conflict. Even those like the old man who choose not to take sides and are not in any way politically minded so often find themselves caught up in the middle of war through no fault of their own, unable to determine their own futures. In such situations, civilians are utterly helpless, forced to endure the constant tension that comes with knowing that they and their loved ones can have their lives disrupted, or even ended, at any moment.

Just such a situation applies to the old man. The war has forced him to up sticks from his hometown and leave behind the large menagerie of which he was taking care. The old man didn’t want any of this; he didn’t ask for it. He simply did as he was told by the soldiers and left town to join the large caravan of refugees forced to flee for their lives.

And now as he sits by the bridge watching a steady stream of his fellow refugees making their way to safety, the old man is forced to move on once more. Or at least he’ll have to move if he wants to avoid the fascists set to arrive at any moment. The old man is utterly helpless, trapped in a situation over which neither he nor his fellow refugees have any control. Under the circumstances, he has little choice but to accept his fate.

However, the old man, in staying put by the roadside, is exercising some degree of choice over the future course of his life. He’s still vulnerable to the actions of other people, and heaven only knows what they will do to him, but at least by sitting at the side of the road and refusing to join the convoy of humanity traveling over the bridge, he feels perhaps that he’s exerting some degree of control over his fate.

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In this short story, an unnamed elderly gentleman has been displaced by war. As the narrator performs his duties of exploring the land beyond the bridge to determine how far the enemy has advanced, he notices that this man does not move.

The man smiles with fondness when recalling the name of his hometown, San Carlos, which he has been forced to evacuate due to impending enemy assaults. More than anything else, he is concerned about the animals he has been forced to leave behind. He mentions them repeatedly and is especially concerned about the goats, as he mentions that they can't care for themselves in the same way cats can. His animals depend on his care, and he looks to them for companionship in his old age. When the soldier tries to comfort the man, this elderly gentleman questions, "But what will they do under the artillery when I was told to leave because of the artillery?"

This man relates that he has no family. He is seventy-six years old and doesn't care for any of the politics which this war embodies. He simply wants to exist peacefully with his animals in his own home, and this has been taken from him.

The elderly gentleman who sits by the bridge therefore demonstrates the theme that war often makes individuals helpless to control their situation, even when they personally do not support the cause of the war that rages around them.

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The old man at the bridge doesn't want to leave his home. His country is being torn apart by the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, and this dangerous situation displaces him.

The old man especially doesn't want to leave behind his helpless animals. As he says to the soldier at the bridge:

The cat, of course, will be all right. A cat can look out for itself, but I cannot think what will become of the others.

He tells the soldier he didn't want to go but was told he must because of the dangers of "artillery fire." He has no family and no idea where he can settle at this point. He also tells the soldier that he has no politics.

The story shows how simple and vulnerable people (and animals) can be left at the mercy of wars they don't understand which nevertheless disrupt their ability to lead their lives. War is a matter of more than dead soldiers, Hemingway says: it also destroys innocent people. These people, like the old man, are forced to bend to circumstances they can't control.

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"Old Man at the Bridge" is a story written by Ernest Hemingway. It takes place in the context of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. The old man at the center of the story is tired and depressed. During the war, a major told him to flee his town to safety. In doing so, he left behind many animals he had in his custody and care, including goats, a cat, and some pigeons. After walking twelve kilometers, the old man is too tired and depressed to continue walking to the nearest safe town, so he sits at the bridge, helpless and hopeless.

The narrator of the story discovers the old man at the bridge as he is crossing the bridge to see how far the enemies have advanced. As they are talking, the old man admits that he has no family. He finds himself in a situation in which he is worried about the fate of his animals, and he is too despondent and exhausted to continue onward to a safe place. The narrator attempts to convince him to forget about the animals because most of them will take care of themselves anyway. The narrator advises that he catch a ride to Barcelona.

The old man attempts to pick himself up and walk to the truck to get a ride, but he is too tired to do so. So he sits back down at his place at the bridge. Figuratively, both men are at a crossroads at the bridge, because one is stuck thinking about the animals left behind before trying to make a safe escape, while the other is stuck worrying about the fate of the old man before attempting to continue onward. Both men find themselves helpless due to external circumstances that are beyond their control.

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