OLD MAN AT THE BRIDGE                                                               

 

 

OLD MAN AT THE BRIDGE

ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Qs. 1. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

There was a pontoon bridge across the river and carts, trucks and men, women and children were crossing it ————. He was too tired to go any farther.

i) What is a pontoon bridge? Why are many people crossing the bridge?

Ans.    A pontoon bridge is a bridge that is made of large hollow containers filled with air. Many people are crossing the bridge because the enemy (Fascists) were advancing towards the bridge over River Ebro. The people of San Carlos were removed from there to safer place, Barcelona.

ii) Where is the old man sitting? Unlike others, why doesn’t he move?

Ans.    The old man is sitting by the side of the road at the pontoon bridge. He is seventy-six years old and had already walked 12 kilometers and is too tired to move any farther. For this reason he doesn’t move unlike the others.

iii) Who is the speaker in the above extract? Why is he there?

Ans.  The speaker in the above extract is the narrator of the story who is a young soldier.

The speaker or the narrator of the story is on a 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 that the narrator asks the old man is “Where do you come from?”

He answers, “From San Carlos”.

The old man smiles because the name of San Carlos his home town fills him with happiness and pride.

v) Why is the old man the last one to leave his town? Describe his physical appearance.

Ans. The old man’s age is seventy-six years. He is a loving human being, who is attached not only to his native town but also to the animals he was taking care of.

The old man’s age seventy-six. He is so old an that he cannot protect himself from becoming a war victim. He wears silver-rimmed spectacles and is sitting by the side of the road at the pontoon bridge.

Qs. 2. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

He did not look like a shepherd nor a herdsman and I looked at his black dusty clothes and his grey dusty face and his steel rimmed spectacles and said, “What animals were they?”

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’ in the above extract.

The old looks very tired. His clothes as well as his face is covered with dust. It seems he cannot protect himself from becoming a victim of the war.

ii) What all animals did he own? What kind of relationship did he share with them?

Ans.       He owned three animals altogether. There were three goats, a cat and four pairs of pigeon.

He was very attached to these animals. He used to take care of them and very reluctant to leave them while leaving his native town. Even while sitting by the road side at the pontoon bridge he is seeing worrying about these animals.

iii) What did he do with the animals? What forced him to do so?

Ans.       He had to leave the animals behind while leaving his hometown. He had left the cage of the pigeons open so they could fly out. The cat could take care of itself. But the goats would certainly become victims of war.

The artillery attack by the enemy (Fascists) forced the natives of San Carlos to leave their home town. Hence, the old man was also forced to leave his native town leaving his animals behind.

iv) Why doesn’t the old man cross the bridge and escape to a safer place?

Ans.       The old man was of seventy-six years and had already walked twelve kilometers. Hence, he was too tired to walk any further. This is the reason why the old man doesn’t cross the bridge and escape to safer place. Rather he sits by the road side at the pontoon bridge.

v) What do the incidents in the story show about consequences of the war? How does war affect the old man and his animals in the story?

Ans.     The story shows how innocent human beings and animals become victim of the war and suffer unnecessarily. Their lives become uncertain and they need to leave their native land to travel to some foreign land as refugees.

The war compelled the old man to leave his animals behind and travel for some unknown land. He had been taking care of these animals for a long time. Before leaving he left the cage of the pigeons open so they could fly away. He knew the cat could take care of itself. But he was worried about his two goats.

Qs. 3. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

“I am without politics,” he said ———————- “If you can make it, there are trucks up the road where it forks for Tortosa”

i) What does the old man mean when he states “I am without politics”? Why does he mention his age?

Ans.   When the old man states, “I am without politics”, he means that he has no political views.

He mentions his age seventy-six to show how old he was and how difficult it was to leave his native land and animals at this age and walk twelve kilometres.

ii) Describe the old man’s appearance. What was he doing in San Carlos?

Ans. The old man was of seventy-six years. He looks tired. He wears a silver rimmed spectacle. He lived in San Carlos, which was his native land. There he took care of animals – a cat, two goats and four pair of pigeons.

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 narrator says, “This is not a good place to stop”. He is referring to the pontoon bridge beside which the old man was sitting. It is nit advisable to halt there because at any moment the enemy (Fascist) soldiers will approach, and the firing would start.

iv) What advice does the narrator give to the old man? How does the old man react to it?

Ans. The narrator advises the old man not to stay there for a long. He suggested the old man if he could make it to get into the trucks which he could get where the road forks for Tortosa.

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 finally resigns to his fate because he has no other option. He was too old and tired to protect himself from becoming the victim of the war.

The old man’s fate symbolizes the defeat of liberal democracy in Spain. It symbolizes the helplessness faced by the victims of war.

No, I don’t think the old man could have changed his fate. This is because a war is declared by the administrators of the countries and the common people only become victims of the war. Only awareness against the devastation caused by a war can change the fate of common people like the old man of the story.

Qs. 4. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

He looked at me very blankly and tiredly, then

said, having to share his worry with someone,

——– Now what do you think about the others”?

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 old man was of seventy-six years. He walked almost twelve kilometres from San Carlos to

the pontoon bridge over the river Ebro. He had to leave his native town of San Carlos where he had been taking care of three animals – a cat, two goats and four pair of pigeons. He was worried thinking what would happen to these animals in the artillery attack. This made the old man look blank and tired.

The old man looked at the narrator blankly and tiredly and started telling him about the fate of his animals. This shows the old man needed someone to talk to.

ii) What is the cause of old man’s worry and guilt?

Ans.    The old man had to leave his town San Carlos because of the artillery attack by the enemy. He used to take care of four pairs of pigeons, a cat and two goats whom he had to leave behind. This worried him and filled him with guilt thinking that if the humans were removed because of the artillery attack then how these animals could survive in the attack.

iii) Explain how the story brings out the conflict between man and his inner self.

Ans.     In the story, we see an inner conflict that takes place between the old man and his inner self. The old man has to leave his native town San Carlos because of the fear of the artillery attack. He also has to leave behind the animals he is taking care of. This feels him with guilt. His conversation with the narrator shows his struggle with his inner self as he feels he has not done justice to the animals he was supposed to protect.

iv) The old man seems to have given up on his life. Do you agree? Why?

Ans.     The old man seems to have given up on his life. Yes, I agree with the above statement. This is because the old man looked tired and exhausted and sat down by the side of the road. He took no initiative to cross pontoon bridge and get into a truck that would take him to Barcelona, knowing very well that the Fascists were advancing towards the river Ebro.

v) How does the narrator try to receive the old man of his worries? Does the prove successful? Support your answers with instance from the story.

Ans.       The narrator converses with the old man to relieve him of his worries.

No, he doesn’t prove successful. He converses with the old man and tries to find about him and his life in San Carlos. The conversation between him and the old man shows he does not have a family to speak about. His family was the animals he used to take care of. His guilt conscious for having left his animals in the artillery attack left him mentally exhausted and dejected. He had submitted himself to fate since he showed no initiative in crossing the pontoon bridge a d getting into the truck to Barcelona.

Qs. 5. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

“I was taking care of animals,” he said dull but no

longer to me ————–. That and the fact that

cats know how to look after themselves was all the

good luck that old man would ever have.

i) Why does the narrator note that the old man spoke ‘dully’?

Ans.   The narrator notes that the old man spoke ‘dully’ because he keeps on repeating to himself “I was taking care of animals”, “I was only taking care of animals”.

ii) What makes the narrator feel that “there was nothing to do about him”?

Ans.    The narrator feels that “there was nothing to do about him” because the old man had no wish to save himself from the artillery attack of the Fascists and give himself protect by crossing the pontoon bridge and going to Barcelona. He had resigned to his fate and sat by the side of the road thinking only about the animals he took care of but had to leave behind.

iii) State how both the narrator and the old man are depicted as helpless by the end.

Ans.       Both the narrator and the old man are depicted as helpless by the end. The old man had to leave his animals behind against his will because of the artillery attack. He had been taking care of these animals for a long time and was reluctant to leave them behind. But the enemy attack compelled him to do so and he felt helpless. The narrator was a young soldier whose duty was to keep an eye on the approaching of the enemy and to see that the war victims were safely send to the other side of the pontoon bridge. He tried to persuade the old man to cross the bridge but failed. He could only hope the grey overcast day would prevent the enemies from attacking. Here we see the narrator’s helplessness.

iv) What is “all the good luck that old man would ever have”?

Ans.       The old man had to leave his animals whom he used to take care of behind against his will because of the artillery attack. He knew the cat would look after itself so there wasn’t anything to worry about it. He was so broken down at leaving his animals behind and to leave his native town for ever that he has lost his wish to leave the side of the road and move away to safety. Hence, there was little chance of him to be saved from the enemy attack. The grey overcast was the only relief the enemy planes were not up. Hence “all the good luck that old man could ever have” are the independent nature of the and the grey over cast.

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 this story? State another example of irony of the story.

Ans.       The story is set on an Easter Sunday, which symbolically shows renewal and peace. But it ironical with reference to the events in the story. This very day is selected for an artillery attack by the enemies which brings the natives of San Carlos to the verge of uncertainly and insecurity. For the old man it meant invite death since he did not cross the pontoon bridge.

Another instance of irony in the story is the old man’s worry about his animals rather than his own self. In fact, the animals had a better chance of survival than the old man. The cat could take care of itself and the doves were able to fly away since he had left the door of their cage open. But the old man was so exhausted walking twelve kilometres and so upset for leaving the animals behind that he was relucted to leave the road side and cross the pontoon bridge to get the truck for Barcelona.

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