Published in 1938, the short story “The Old Man at the Bridge” by Ernest Hemingway is set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War, as indicated by the references to Ebro (a river in Spain), to fascists (l. 72), and to Barcelona.

The events take place over a couple of hours, during Easter Sunday (l. 71), which is ironical, because instead of celebrating the resurrection of Christ, the people are preparing for war.

Physical setting

The physical setting is the bridge over the river and its surroundings. The narrator conveys a gloomy atmosphere by constant references to dust and to colors like grey and black: “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).

The physical setting is depicted in several instances, and it helps the author to convey feelings like anxiety, pessimism, confusion, and helplessness:


Social setting

The social setting illustrates aspects related to society in times of war, namely the Spanish society during the Civil War. The Spanish Civil War took place from 1936 to 1939. The fight was between Republicans and Nationalists. The Republicans were oriented towards the left, including the extreme left, while the Nationalists were oriented towards the right and the extreme right.


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