Old Man at Bridge Clean Place by 32572U


									Lesson Title: No Country for Old Men: Hemingway’s “Old Man at the Bridge” and
“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”
Course and Grade: American Literature, 11th
Generalization: The main idea here is making inferences about character relationships,
plot, and the theme of alienation.
Learning Targets:
Skills: making inferences.
Facts: Hemingway’s iceberg principle; the old man at the bridge has more empathy for
the animals than any human being shows the old man; the old man is probably going to
be killed, though he only worries about his animals; the reporter (Hemingway) does not
help the old man but abandons him to be killed by Franco’s forces; in “A Clean, Well-
Lighted Place” the older waiter has more empathy for the old man than the young waiter
does because he understands what the younger man cannot about how difficult it is to be
old and alone with only a cafe to go to because it’s around some other people and is clean
and well-lighted; the old man is suicidal; one waiter doesn’t believe the old man has
anything to despair about because he’s rich; the young waiter doesn’t care if the old man
goes and kills himself, and in fact wishes the old man would have killed himself last
week so he would no longer remain so late at night so he could go home earlier, and he
tells the old man he should have killed himself (the old man is deaf and doesn’t hear this),
but the older man does care and is glad to provide the old man some solace with the café;
light is used to represent an escape from loneliness and darkness represents loneliness;
after the old man leaves, the old waiter goes to a bar and doesn’t order anything at first,
but then later a little drink, indicating he is the same as the old man; he thinks he will go
home and try to sleep in spite of his insomnia.
Materials: Lesson plan with questions, copies of the stories, copies of the explanations
of the stories.
Anticipatory Set:
Ask a student to explain Hemingway’s iceberg principle.
Context and Purpose: “Today we are reading two short stories, “Old Man at the Bridge”
and “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.” Both demonstrate Hemingway’s iceberg principle.”
Instruction: Read “Old Man at the Bridge” aloud to them. Then discuss it. Then hand
out the commentary on the short story “Old Man at the Bridge” and read that to the
students. Read “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” aloud to them. Then discuss it. Hand out
the commentary on “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” and read that aloud to the students.
Discuss some more. Have students view Goya’s painting Nada or Ello Dira and discuss
it in relation to Hemingway’s stories.
Closure: Remind students that Hemingway was an alcoholic and eventually committed
suicide as an old man.
Questions for Discussion on “Old Man at the Bridge”

Why has the old man had to evacuate his home village?

The village is under attack from Franco’s fascist forces.

What was the old man’s responsibility or job he had to leave?

He was taking care of animals.

Is this old man alone, or does he have anyone?

He is without any human companions and doesn’t know anyone towards Barcelona.

What does the reporter try to suggest to the old man he ought to do?

He should keep walking until he gets to some trucks and hitch a ride to Barcelona.

Why do you think the old man will not get on the truck to go to Barcelona?

He doesn’t know anyone in that direction and seems too tired to go on.

What is the old man’s main concern?

He is mainly concerned about the animals he had to leave behind.

Does he seem to care about whether he himself lives or dies?


What will happen to the old man if the reporter leaves him behind and the skies clear?

The planes will come through and bomb the whole area, most likely killing the old man.

Does the reporter have some sort of responsibility towards the old man?

Answers will vary.

If so, does he abandon that responsibility?

Answers will vary.

Does the reporter abandon him? What will happen to the old man?

The reporter abandons him; the old man will be killed.
What most likely happened to the animals the old man left behind?

They probably escaped (the doves, the cat, perhaps even the goats).

What is the contrast between the way the old man feels towards the animals he had to
leave behind and the way the reporter feels towards the old man he abandons?

The old man feels responsibility towards the animals; he feels it is his duty to make sure
they are safe and are not killed. The reporter (Hemingway) feels no such responsibility
towards the old man.

Questions for Discussion on “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”

Of the two waiters, the older one versus the younger one, who demonstrates more
empathy for the old man who always comes in? Why do you think that is?

The older waiter shows more empathy. He’s going through what the old man is going
through. The young waiter still has many friends and a wife and doesn’t understand what
it means to be older and alone and lonely.

What does one waiter inform the other about what the old man tried to do last week?

The old man tried to kill himself.

What does one waiter assume about why the old man could not have anything to despair

One waiter assumes he cannot have any reason to despair because he has money.

Who saved the old man’s life?

His niece cut him down when he tried to hang himself, for the sake of his soul (they
believed that suicide was a sin that would condemn your soul to Hell).

What different attitudes do the two waiters express about the old man, and what factors
do you think influence their views and opinions about him?

The young waiter regards him with contempt and wishes he were dead so he’d stop
staying late so that he could go home earlier; the older waiter empathizes with the old
man because he experiences the same type of loneliness. The young waiter says the old
man is a nasty thing, while the older waiter points out he’s actually quite clean.

How do you feel when the younger waiter goes over to the old man and specifically tells
the deaf old man that he should have killed himself?

Answers will vary.
When the younger waiter tells the older waiter that he wants to get home earlier to spend
more time with his wife, what does the older waiter point out?

The old man had a wife once, too.

When the old man has left the café, the older waiter jokingly asks the younger waiter
(who’s in a hurry to get home to his wife) if he’s afraid of arriving home before his usual
hour of about three in the morning. What is he implying?

That the younger waiter might catch his wife in bed with someone else.

When the younger waiter tells the old man that it’s silly to try to keep the café open late
for those who may need it for a night-light because there are bodegas (bars) open all night
long, what does the older waiter tell him?

He tells him that it’s not the same; this place is clean and well-lighted, while the bodegas
(bars) are cheap, dirty, and unseemly places with loud music that only make you lonelier.

What does the older waiter do after the old man has left their café?

He goes to a bar.

When the bartender asks the older waiter what he wants, he initially says nothing, at
which point the bartender says “Another crazy one,” but then finally the old man gets a
drink. Why does the old man stay at a bar and drink rather than go home immediately?

Again, like the old man who was his customer earlier, he hates to go home and face being

What is the significance of the ‘prayer’ that the older waiter says to himself?

He replaces some of the words of the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary prayer with the
word ‘nada,’ Spanish for ‘nothing.’ This means that he has lost faith and believes in
nothingness and loneliness.

What does the darkness represent and what does the light represent?

The darkness represents loneliness; the light is a protection against it.

Based on this story, how do you think Hemingway felt about growing older?

Answers will vary.

Again where do we see the iceberg principle at work here?

Answers will vary, but will include several moments in the story where we must make
inferences, including the joke about the younger waiter’s wife having an affair, etc.
An Analysis of “Old Man at the Bridge”

Hemingway visited the Ebro River in 1938 as part of his coverage of the Spanish Civil
War for the North American Newspaper Association. Along with military trucks and
troops crossing a bridge over the Ebro, and civilians pulling their carts with their
belongings, he saw and talked to an old man who was sitting at the foot of the bridge. He
was too tired to continue. Hemingway decided to make it into a story instead of a
dispatch. On the surface, the story is about an old man who has left his village because of
potential enemy artillery fire, has walked twelve kilometers, and cannot go farther.

The old man has left his animals and worries about them dying; the correspondent has to
leave the old man, knowing if he does, the old man will die. The irony is that a cat, a few
doves, and two goats have a better chance of survival than does the old man. But the old
man doesn’t complain he is likely to die, he worries about the animals. He does not
complain he has no family; he worries about the animals. He doesn’t complain he has no
place to go, even if he managed to get on to a truck; he simply worries about the only
friends he has left, his animals.

The irony at the end is that the correspondent could help him but callously says, “There
was nothing to do about him. It was Easter Sunday and the Fascists were advancing
toward the Ebro. It was a gray overcast day with a low ceiling so their planes were not
up. That and the fact that cats know how to look after themselves was all the good luck
that the old man would ever have.” This means that there was no luck—the weather
would sooner or later clear and the planes would fly and the old man would be killed.
Cats may be able to take care of themselves, but old men, tired, alone in a war, cannot.
An Analysis of “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”

Some have argued that Hemingway contrasts light and shadow to differentiate the old
man and the young people around him, and uses the deafness of the old man as a symbol
for his separation from the rest of the world. Others say the darkness represents
loneliness and the light is just a way of keeping it away.

In the story, Hemingway uses waiters to judge the old man. The older waiter observes
that as a clean drunk, the old man does not spill a drop as he drinks and walks “unsteadily
but with dignity” when he finally leaves the café. The younger waiter wonders why
anyone would choose to drink alone instead of buying a bottle for himself and drinking it
in the comfort of his own home. The older waiter defends the old man, saying he needs
the light and the people around more than he needs the drinks.

The younger waiter complains of having to wait around for the old man to finish and
leave so he can go home, too. He says he’d rather be at home in bed with his wife than at
the café. The older waiter points out that the old man used to have a wife but does not
have her any longer because she has died; the old man has no one to rush home to
embrace anymore and thus no reason to rush home at all. The older waiter can relate to
the old man, recognizing that they are both becoming more frail, getting closer to death,
and they are both already alone and lonely. The older waiter ends up going to a bar
(which he does not like as well as a café) and having a drink alone, just like the old man,
and will only go home to fall asleep at dawn, sleeping during daylight hours, thus
avoiding the darkness and the loneliness of lying alone in his bed at night.

Edward F. Stanton writes of “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” in Hemingway In Spain:

Against the neatness, light, and order of the café stands the dark chaos of the night,
despair, nothingness, death. Like his characters, the old man and the middle-aged [older]
waiter, Hemingway had experienced insomnia, nightmarish fears, feelings of anguish and
death after his wounding … [in Italy during WWI]. When he became acquainted with the
etchings of Goya during his first prolonged stay in Spain, all of these dimly felt emotions
probably crystallized in the Spanish word and sense of nada: one of the painter’s famous
pieces from his Disasters of War, entitled Nada or Ello Dira [The Event Will Tell],
shows a specter apparently flying out of a grave, despair on its cavernous face, carrying a
white page or book with the word “nada” inscribed on it. The specter’s message in the
etching could refer to the nothingness beyond the grave or to the nada of life on earth.

Hemingway was aware of the work of many of the Spanish painters (such as) Goya,
Miro, [and] Pico, and uses this one painting as a stepping-off point to describe the
reactions of three men—a young man, a middle-aged man, and an old man, to the
nothingness of life and the probable nothingness of the afterlife.

So ... the story is not related to Hemingway’s experiences. Hemingway’s experiences are
used to convey a message by being used within the story. The reference to the painting
helps the reader to understand the idea of nothingness with the story. The fact that
Hemingway either did or did not view the painting is meaningless.

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