"On the Bridge" and Other Stories

"On the Bridge" and Other Stories Study Guide

Todd Strasser's "On the Bridge" is a short story about a teenage boy whose desire to be like his cool friend results in a violent confrontation that exposes the friend's cowardice and pathological lying.

While smoking his first cigarette on a bridge, Seth watches Adam flick a cigarette butt onto a car driving on the highway below. When the driver confronts the boys, Adam blames Seth, and the driver holds Seth's face against the windshield of his car, demanding that Seth lick off the ash. When Seth refuses, the driver slams Seth's head into the glass and gives Seth a bloody nose. Adam reappears on the scene to help Seth up, claiming that he would have intervened but one of the driver's accomplices pulled a knife on him. Seth doesn't believe Adam's story, and Seth throws away his bloodied denim jacket in a symbolic rejection of masculine posturing.

Exploring the themes of social belonging, authenticity, masculine insecurity, and dishonesty, "On the Bridge" illustrates the consequences of masculine insecurity, pathological lying, and the hollowness of trying to appear cool. While Seth begins the story admiring Adam's tough-guy appearance and naively believing Adam's boastful claims about fighting and getting with girls, Seth ends the story having realized that Adam is just as insecure about his masculinity as Seth is. Although Seth believes himself to be inauthentic compared to Adam, the revelation that Adam compulsively lies proves that Adam—like Seth—has created a facade that prevents him from having to reveal his true vulnerability.