The language used by Ernest Hemingway in the short story “The Old Man at the Bridge” is very simple and informative. The author does not use complex descriptions or narrative passages. Instead, he relies on dialogue to convey deeper, symbolical meanings.
The choice of words is related to war, as the action takes place during the Spanish Civil War, but also to life in the countryside, as the old man comes from a rural town. To convey a gloomy atmosphere and the idea that war destroys everything, the author uses multiple references to dust and the color gray: “very dusty clothes” (l. 1), “ankle deep dust” (l. 7), “black dusty clothes and his gray dusty face” (l. 21), “a gray overcast day” (l. 72).
Even if the text is not very descriptive, the author occasionally uses imagery, in connection to the character of the old man and the war setting:
Additionally, the author uses repetition and symbols to convey more ideas in an otherwise very short text.
Repetition is used on several occasions, and it helps illustrate aspects about the two characters. The old man repeats four times that he used to take care of animals:
“ ‘I was taking care of animals,’ he explained.” (l. 17)
“ ‘I stayed, you see, taking care of animals. I was the last one to leave the town of San Carlos.’” (l. 19)
Although the short story is rather brief, the author succeeds in conveying a deeper message through symbols.
The cat is the symbol of survival and survivors, as it is usually said that cats have nine lives. Cats are also usually capable of finding food without humans.