What was the conflict in "Old Man at the Bridge"?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is the type of story in which the conflict is not between the principal characters but between much larger forces whose struggle affects the lives of the little people unavoidably involved. On the one side of the great conflict is the army of the Loyalists. They are fighting to preserve the legally elected Spanish government. On the other side is the army of the Fascists under the leadership of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, who eventually won the rebellion because they were supported by the Fascist governments of Germany and Italy. The little people, such as the weary old man at the bridge, are forced to scramble to keep from getting crushed between the opposing juggernauts. The old man symbolizes the Spanish people in general. He is not concerned about the greater issues involved in the conflict. He isn't capable of understanding them. The Spanish Civil War was considered to be a prelude to World War II, which covered the entire globe and resulted in the deaths of some seventy million people, half of whom were civilians. The old man is only concerned about a few animals—a cat, two goats, and eight pigeons—which he had to leave behind when he fled the advancing Fascists. The narrator presents this slice-of-life as a picture of the face of war. The advancing Fascist army might be said to symbolize the great conflict which seems to be threatening much of the entire world. Hemingway's story was published in 1938. Britain and France declared war on Germany in 1939. America was drawn into the international conflict when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in 1941.

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Old Man at the Bridge

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