"On the Bridge" and Other Stories

"On the Bridge" and Other Stories Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Denim Jacket (Symbol)

Seth's sleeveless denim jacket is a symbol of the tough appearance he hopes to emulate. But while Adam’s leather jacket looks genuinely distressed, as if Adam has been in many fights, Seth’s denim jacket is new and has no stains or rips, prompting Seth to wash the jacket "a hundred times." When the story ends with Seth's jacket becoming stained with his blood, Seth observes how the jacket now bears the marks of authenticity he had earlier hoped for. However, he throws the jacket away, rejecting his earlier naïve desire to appear tough.

Adam's Escalating Actions (Motif)

To impress Seth, Adam becomes increasingly daring in his interactions with the traffic passing under the bridge. At first, Adam simply waves at girls he seems to know; later, he signals a truck driver to blow his horn. Adam makes Seth uncomfortable when he pretends to throw a rock at a blue sedan and nearly causes an accident. Adam's fourth act of provocation involves flicking his lit cigarette onto a black car. While the initial actions had been inconsequential, giving Adam a sense of invulnerability and immunity, the flicked cigarette results in Adam having to face the driver he angered. In the end, Strasser resolves the motif of Adam's escalating actions by showing Adam falsely accuse Seth of having flicked the cigarette. In this way, Adam's actions chart a path of not only escalating provocation but of escalating consequence. Having blamed Seth, Adam faces the consequence of losing Seth's trust.

The Bridge (Symbol)

The bridge on which the entirety of the story's action takes place is a symbol for how Adam lives as though he is elevated above others and therefore insulated from consequences. From the bridge, Adam feels entitled to fool a driver into thinking he is about to throw a rock and to flick his lit cigarette into the traffic passing below. While Seth worries about angering the drivers or causing an accident, Adam acts indifferent. But while the bridge initially affords Adam and Seth distance from the consequences of their anti-social behavior, the bridge later transforms into a trap. When the men from the black car surround Seth and Adam, the boys have no way of escaping the consequences of Adam's actions.