What is the narrator's attitude toward the old man in "Old Man at the Bridge" by Ernest Hemingway?

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The narrator is clearly sympathetic towards the old man. He's a soldier, and so he has firsthand experience of the horrors of war, especially the damaging impact it can have on innocent civilians caught up in the crossfire of conflict.

At the same time, the soldier realizes that he can't force the old man to leave, can't make him get up and cross over the bridge with the thousands of other refugees making their way to safety. This indicates that he has a great deal of respect for the old man's autonomy and for his ability to make his own decisions. The narrator would gladly do all that he could to save the old man, but ultimately, the old man has to want to save himself. And on the basis of his reluctance to move and his beaten, broken demeanor, it doesn't appear that that's what the old man wants at all.

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The narrator feels quite concerned about the safety of the old man. He tries hard to convince him to get away from that place, for the enemy troops are about to reach there.

The old man does not seem very concerned about his own safety; he is only worried about the animals he has left behind. Those animals include two goats, a cat, and eight pigeons.

Having traveled for twelve kilometers, the old man is now stopped midway on a bridge, brooding over the well-being of his animals. The narrator can see the pointlessness of the old man’s concern. He pities the old man, for his life is more vulnerable than those of his animals in the situation.

When the old man says, “A cat can look out for itself, but I cannot think what will become of the others," the narrator tries to allay his fears by saying, “They'll probably come through it all right.”

Moreover, the narrator comes up with quite a convincing argument to make the old man feel safe about his pigeons. He says that “they'll fly,” because the old man has left the door of the cage unlocked. The old man agrees with him, but he is not able to overcome his anxiety for his animals. He says,

Yes, certainly they'll fly. But the others.

At the end, the narrator gives in and decides to leave the old man to his fate.

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