Last Bridge Burned

This study guide will help you analyze the short story “Last Bridge Burned” by Ron Rash. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it.

Presentation of the text

Title: “Last Bridge Burned” (2018)
Author: Ron Rash
Genre: Short story

Ron Rash (b. 1953) is an American author and professor. He has won several literary awards. The short story “Last Bridge Burned” was published in the short story collection In the Valley from 2018.


Below you can read an extract from our study guide:


Carlyle’s thoughts about cats and dogs (ll. 21-22) turn out to be relevant for Carlyle and the woman. Although Carlyle compares the woman to a dog, she turns out to be more like a cat, finding a way to survive and overcome her social condition. In the end, it is Carlyle who is more like the dogs, always staying where he is, as if waiting. Therefore, he remains isolated and unable, or unwilling, to overcome his social condition.

The gas station is symbolic of Carlyle’s isolation, illustrating the way he seems to have stopped trying to change his life. By contrast, the bus station could be symbolic of moving forward, as the woman takes the bus and changes her life for the better. The bus station is also a gathering place for people who have reached the bottom of society.

The song Carlyle hears on the radio two years after his meeting with the woman symbolizes how the kindness of strangers can help someone improve their lives. The song’s lyrics suggest that the woman was inspired by Carlyle’s help, and that is why she turned her life around.

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Last Bridge Burned

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