What is the significance of the setting of "On the Bridge"?
The bridge on which most of the story's action takes place gives the boys the opportunity to look down on everything that is going on beneath them. By positioning themselves at the top of the bridge, Seth and Adam are effectively putting themselves on a pedestal, and everyone on the road below is subject to their will. This symbolic elevation speaks to how Adam acts as though he is above the usual rules of society and safe from consequences. Seth is attracted to Adam's confident belief that society is beneath him, and longs to show the same lack of respect for others' opinions. However, the elevation the bridge affords the boys also means they cannot escape when consequences arise in the form of the three angry men who surround Seth and Adam, blocking any way out. In this way, the benefits of being on the bridge are inseparable from the risks.
How does "On the Bridge" explore the theme of dishonesty?
As one of the story's major themes, dishonesty plays a crucial role in "On the Bridge." Seth begins the story believing himself to be dishonest in his attempts to appear as Adam. To emulate Adam's appearance, Seth tries to distress his denim jacket, but feels fraudulent when it still looks new. Similarly, Seth pretends to smoke, knowing that he isn't inhaling properly out of fear he will cough and reveal his inexperience. But Seth is so preoccupied with his own dishonesty that he cannot see Adam's. Believing himself to be a fraud, Seth is blind to Adam's compulsive lies, which Adam uses to bolster his cool-guy image. Seth credulously believes Adam's claims of physical dominance, rebelliousness, and experience dating older girls. It is only after Adam's obvious and overly detailed lie about why he couldn't intervene in the fight over the cigarette ash that Seth wises up to Adam's pathological lying. Once Seth understands Adam's dishonesty, he knows he can no longer trust Adam. Both boys behave dishonestly, but while Seth's white lies are harmless, Adam's pathological lying leads to the abrupt end to their brief friendship.
Why is it significant that Seth throws his denim jacket away?
"On the Bridge" ends with an instance of situational irony and a significant change in the protagonist's perspective. Seth begins the story wishing that his denim jacket showed the same battle-worn patina Adam's does, and he ends the story by reflecting that his jacket, now stained with blood, has gained the marks of authenticity he wanted. Despite this, Seth throws the jacket away before entering his house. Although he has achieved his desire to look like a guy who has been in lots of fights, Seth's perspective changes and he no longer wants to be like Adam. By throwing his jacket away, Seth makes a symbolic rejection of his naïve desire to appear like a tough guy, as he now knows how hollow the endeavor had been.