What is the significance of Easter Sunday in “Old Man at the Bridge”?
“The Old Man at the Bridge” is one of Hemingway’s shortest tales. It is based upon an Easter Sunday stopover at the Ebro River during his coverage of the Spanish Civil War in April 193 8. Although employed by the North American Newspaper Association (NANA), Hemingway apparently decided to submit it to Ken Magazine as a short story instead of using it as a news article.
Hemingway reports an incident that took place on an Easter Sunday. It might have just been a coincidence that this incident took place on Easter Sunday.
On the other hand, Hemingway might have wanted to emphasize the irony of the situation that the ‘old man’s’ life is in danger on the very same day that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
A soldier (who is also the narrator) sees an old man resting on the side of a road near a pontoon bridge. Other civilians are crossing this bridge, but the old man is too tired to proceed any further. The old man tells the soldier that he is a native of San Carlos where he worked as a caretaker of animals.
The old man seems more concerned for the safety of his animals than for his own safety. He has some relief in knowing that the cat will be able to fend for itself, and that since he has unlocked the cage, the birds can fly away, but the fate of the other animals is uncertain and the man is distraught by this.
The soldier tries to encourage the old man to move a little farther along, for he knows the bridge is likely to be bombed. The old man, however, is simply too exhausted to proceed.