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Bridge on the Drina novel analysis essay

Introduction

The “Bridge on the Drina” by Ivo Andric is a novel that tells the story of the town of Visegrad over span of four hundred years. The ingenious work of fiction and creativity narrates important social and political events that took place in the town during the four hundred years. Historically Serbia went through various conflicts in the four centuries but Andric emphasizes that there were certain aspects of integration that prevented total social and political disintegration. Andric uses the bridge as a focal point in the story to refer to various events, challenges and the perceptions of people living in the town of Visegrad. Consequently the author has utilized the bridge to symbolize various aspects. Symbolism gives the author the opportunity to maintain consistency and thereby strengthening the plot. The paper will discuss the various aspects in the novel that are represented by the bridge.

bridge on the drina novel

Symbolism of the Bridge

Reunion: The bridge represents a reunion. Grand Vezir, Mehmed Pasha who orders the bridge to be built is actually a young boy who was taken away from his mother at a very young age and the bridge marked the point of separation between the boy and his mother. The author outlines that during that time many boys were captured from their mothers and in determination their mothers pursued the captors. However, on reaching the river Drina the mothers were not able to proceed with the pursuit since they had no means of crossing the river. By the time the building of the bridge commences the young boy is already old and the general realization is that he is not building the bridge to reunite with his mother but with his culture and homeland. To Mehmed Pasha, lack of a bridge greatly facilitated his separation from his mother and consequently his culture and his people thereby robbing him of very important things in his life. The author uses the construction of the bridge to symbolize the reunion of the people who had been separated from their families due to lack of bridge that easily allowed transportation across the river (Andric 16). Therefore, the bridge acts as an important avenue that makes the reunion possible.

Tranquility: The author uses the bridge to symbolize the tranquility that existed in the town of Visegrad and the surrounding areas even in times of conflict. The author outlines that after the construction of the bridge, it became so famous that it was used by persons from diverse cultures and religions as a meeting place. The tension and the prejudices existing between the “Turks” and the “Serbs” were perennial and seemed to exist in all the centuries described by the author. The major causes for the conflicts were differences in religion and culture. However, the bridge marked a region where all the prejudices and the hatred were forgotten and people interacted peacefully. The author refers to the middle of the bridge as the “gate” and it became the central meeting point for people (Andric 123). The people living around the bridge lived in harmony and even assisted each other during challenging events such as during floods. The existent of such peace in the midst of conflicts between the “Turks” who were Muslims and the “Serbs” who were Christians underscores the tranquility around the town of Visegrad. The author therefore uses the bridge to symbolize the peace and tranquility that existed around the town of Visegrad disregarding the conflicts in the other regions of Bosnia.

Resilience: The bridge symbolizes the resilience of people around the town of Visegrad against the various forces that attempted to separate them or create conflicts amongst them. The author writes that “Radisav stirred people to revolt and told Vezir not to continue with the work for he would meet with many difficulties” (Andric 17). Radisav was not only opposed to the forced labor that was being employed to build the bridge but also believed that there were superstitious forces that were against the construction of the bridge. Building of the bridge alone took a span of five years. The fact that the bridge managed to to survive the military confrontations that took place in the four centuries demonstrates the resilience of the people living in the town of Visegrad to remain integrated. Only soldiers from afar seemed to cause violence in the region but the people living there remained peaceful towards each other. Therefore, the author uses the bridge to symbolize the resilience of the people living around the town of Visegrad to live peaceful with one another.

Cultural Integration: The bridge symbolizes cultural integration in several ways allowing the author to outline the possibility if integration even in the midst of animosity. The Grand Vezir who ordered the construction of the bridge was born a Christian Serb and raised in the midst of Muslim Turks. All along the Vezir knew about his roots and the cultures of the Turks and accommodated all of them harmoniously. The ability of the Vezir to manage doing that is used by the author to demonstrate that such social cohesion and integration was possible even in the wider Serbia. The bridge shows the capacity of the Vezir to connect with both the cultures (Andric 16).  The fact that the Serbs and the Turks living in the town of Visegrad lived harmoniously also demonstrates that cultural integration was in existent. The bridge demonstrates the mutual respect existing between the two cultures that allowed for the peaceful existence even when in the rest of Serbia there were conflicts (Andric 69). The fact that the two cultures had lived for so long had nurtured mutual understanding and respect that promoted the cultural integration. A bridge normally provides connection between two regions that are separated by a river or a valley. Therefore, the author has used the bridge in this case to emphasize on the cultural connection that existed between the Turks and the Serbs in the town of Visegrad.

Nationalism: The author uses the bridge to symbolize nationalism that is still evident even in the midst of perennial conflicts. The fact that the bridge survives all the violence of the military conflicts in four centuries demonstrates that the bridge was actually built on strong foundations. The people living in the town of Visegrad identified with the area and prevented all advances that would bring about disintegration. Having survived the administration of Ottoman and the Austrians the bridge still stood strong. The external and internal pressures that threatened to completely destroy the nationalism in Serbia never succeeded. The author outlines how many lives were lost and the extent of destruction that took place while the bridge still stood. The capacity of the bridge to stand strong symbolizes the nationalism that existed in the inhabitants of Visegrad and other regions of Serbia and that was materialistic in ensuring that the region survived all the military conflicts in the four centuries. Therefore, the author uses the bridge to outline the subtle nationalism that existed in the region and that was important in preventing total destruction.

An Avenue for Civilization: The author has used the bridge to symbolize an avenue for civilization and modernization. The author outlines how various aspects on the banks of the river promoted superstitions among the inhabitants of Visegrad. For instance, the left bank had a stone that people believed was the tomb believed to be of a dead hero known as Radisav. However, the author also outlines how the newer generation on the other side of the bank never fully embraced the stories implying that the children were progressing towards modernization. The author writes that: “the children were torn between belief and disbelief” (Andric 18). The bridge also provides an avenue in which foreigners especially the people from Austria entered the city. The bridge therefore represents a transition from old cultures towards modernization influenced by the older generation and foreigners.

Conclusion

The Novel “Bridge on the Drina” written by Ivo Andric is a work of fiction that narrates the stories of the events and people that took place within a span of four centuries in the town of Visegrad. The bridge is particularly monotonous in the book outlining the fact that the author has used the bridge to symbolize many aspects concerning the people and the events. The bridge symbolizes reunion because Vezir builds it when he finally seeks contact with his motherland after he was captured as a young boy. The bridge symbolizes tranquility because it is a place of peace in the midst of conflicts. The bridge is also used as a meeting place thereby underscoring the neutrality aspect. The bridge symbolizes the resilience of the occupants of Visegrad against all the forces that threatened the peace. The Turks and Serbs living in Visegrad were not in conflict with one another even when other neighboring regions were in conflicts. The bridge symbolizes cultural integration between the Turks and the Serbs. The bridge symbolizes nationalism that ensured that the region and the people stayed integral in the face of all the conflicts in the four centuries. Finally the bridge symbolizes the transition from old cultures towards modernization influenced by the younger generation and people from other parts of Europe. The use of symbolism with regard to the bridge has ensured that the author maintains consistency with regard to the building of the plot.

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