Academic journal article Chicago Review

The Hole in the Bridge

Academic journal article Chicago Review

The Hole in the Bridge

Article excerpt

There was a river and on each of its banks, a little town. These two towns were joined by a road which ran across a bridge.

One day, a hole appeared in the bridge. The bridge needed repair: on this much, public opinion in both towns was in agreement. But an argument arose as to who should do it. For each of these little towns thought itself more important than the other. The inhabitants of the right bank thought that the road led first of all to their town, and so the left-bank town should patch the bridge since it had more at stake. The left-bank town, for its part, considered itself the final destination of every journey, and so the repair of the bridge was clearly in the interest of the right-bank town.

The argument persisted, and so the hole persisted too. And the longer it persisted, the more embittered grew the grudge between the towns. One day, a local beggar fell into the hole and broke his leg. Citizens of both towns assaulted him with questions in an effort to determine whether he was walking from the right bank to the left, or from the left to the right; his answer would indicate which town was responsible for the accident. He could not remember, however, because that night he had been drunk.

Some time later, a traveler's carriage was crossing the bridge, fell into the hole and broke an axle. But because the traveler was only passing through both towns, and thus was going neither from one to the other nor from the other to the one, the residents of both towns were indifferent to the accident. …

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