What is the theme in the "Old Man at the Bridge" by Ernest Hemingway?

One theme in "Old Man at the Bridge" by Ernest Hemingway is alienation. Because he has been left behind by everyone he knows and has no real sense of purpose anymore, the old man feels that life is no longer worth living.

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The theme of "The Old Man at the Bridge" is that war not only threatens to destroy the lives of soldiers on the battlefield, but all living beings who happen to be in its path. This anti-war story focuses on what we today would call war's "collateral damage."

The old man is one example of collateral damage. He has been living his ordinary, peaceful, compassionate life in a rural village in Spain. He has no idea what the fighting is all about. He hates nobody, has no politics, and simply wants to do what he has always done, which is tend his animals, but he is forced from his home. He has nowhere to go, nobody to stay with, and no desire to start over, yet he has to leave.

Through his concern for the fate of the animals he has left behind, we learn about even more of war's collateral damage: he has let his cats run free and has left his bird cages open, but what of his farm stock? He worries about the bombs dropping from planes and an enemy army coming through. What will happen to his poor animals? Like him, these are creatures without any politics or hate whose lives are threatened and upended.

Hemingway wants to make sure that we don't forget about all the vulnerable creatures, from animals to elderly people, who suffer from wars. He is saying that these lives count, too, and are part of war's toll.

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One of the themes in “Old Man at the Bridge” is the devastation that war causes to the lives of ordinary people. Like so many of such folk caught up in the midst of conflict, the old man has had his life completely destroyed. Forced to move from his hometown, he must now move again if he's to avoid the imminent arrival of Fascist troops.

The old man isn't political and hasn't taken sides in this bitter conflict. But as many people in the exact same situation as himself have found, this makes no difference whatsoever. In a civil war, no one is deemed to be neutral. As such, civilians like the old man are all doomed to suffer in some way, shape, or form, as if they are soldiers on the front line.

The old man didn't want this war; he never, at any time, asked for it. But like the countless hordes of refugees making their way over the bridge to relative safety, he is still a victim of this terrible conflict in any case. His life, like all those of the people he sees crossing the bridge, has been turned upside-down, and what's left of it looks set to be disrupted even further.

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One theme that becomes evident in "The Old Man at the Bridge" is alienation. The old man has been left behind at the bridge, and no one seems to notice or care. When the narrator asks him about family, the man replies that he doesn't have any family and cares for "only the animals." He has been forced to abandon these animals because of the war, and his mind constantly cycles back to their well-being; the loss of this final sense of connection has left him lonely and isolated.

Although he is caught in the middle of a war that has now displaced him from his home, the old man utters that he is "without politics" as well. He has no sense of loyalty to either side of the political struggles of this war, suggesting that he has been alienated by his own country as well. He can't take a train toward Barcelona because he doesn't know anyone "in that direction."

Because of his alienation, the man is resigned to die. At seventy-six years old, he looks at the narrator "very blankly and tiredly" and indicates that he needs to "share his worry with someone." The narrator, however, provides no real sense of empathy for the man's situation. For example, when he realizes that the man enjoys talking about his native town, reflected by the man's smile as he mentions San Carlos, the narrator fails to follow up with genuine questions and instead simply replies with an "oh." His comments are superficial, and in the end, he chalks up the old man's presumed death to "luck." The narrator himself finally abandons the old man because of his own obligations. While this allows for the narrator's survival, the old man's presumed fate suggests that a life of alienation is not worth living.

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One theme in Hemingway's The Old Man at the Bridge is sense of duty. The old man the soldier meets at the bridge feels it is his duty to act as a shepherd, and watch over his flock. The old man believes that he must watch over the four doves, the cat, and the two goats in San Carlos. The artillery fire is why he and others of the town are evacuated.

The young soldier feels that it is his duty to carry out the orders of the evacuation to ensure overall success in the war. While he encounters the old man at the bridge and feels some empathy for him, the soldier does nothing to aide the old man. The old man is tired and old yet the soldier does nothing for him, opting to keep to his sense of duty to the military and his orders.

It is up to the reader to decide which man is the better person. The old man places the needs of other living things over his own well being and the need to save himself. While he does leave the living things behind, it is due to the fact of old age and the forced evacuation. He would have taken care of them otherwise. The old man represents nature and morality. His duty is to care for nature.

The soldier places the need of the man made and unnatural as priority. He offers a kind ear to the old man but does nothing physically to change the old man's situation. While the soldier has orders, he could have taken a moral point of view in the old man's dilemma. The young soldier represents man's neglect of nature and tendency toward war or violence.

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