After Ove turned 18, he passed his driving test, sold his father's Saab, and bought a marginally newer blue Saab. At this time in Sweden people began talking about a middle class, which Ove realized he wasn't a part of. Ove began receiving letters from the council about his house being on the edge of a municipal boundary. He noticed that the middle class were moving into newly built housing developments and understood that his house was in the way. He refused the council's offer to buy his house and decided instead to repair it.
Here, Ove situates himself as being very much opposed to the middle class. He separates himself from it and refuses to acknowledge that he might one day join it. Notice that he sees that the middle class is purchasing new things, rather than making things themselves. This begins to suggest that the middle class is something that Ove despises because they don't follow his system of rules and principles.
Ove got a job at a construction site. He worked construction during the day and as a train cleaner at night. One day, the foreman at the construction site told Ove that if he needed scrap material, he'd look the other way. Other coworkers at the construction site told Ove he was an idiot but taught him building skills. One afternoon, Ove found a toolbox full of used tools with a note saying "to the puppy."
Ove finds community at the construction site and gets to learn skills that support his belief that men should make things themselves rather than buy them. His boss at the construction site is kind like the director at the train station, and similarly supports Ove's principles.
Ove avoided his neighbors, all of whom disliked him greatly. Ove met the elderly old man next door one day when he forgot to feed the birds on his usual schedule. When he went out to feed them on the next day, which was an off day, Ove found the old man feeding the birds. Several weeks later, Ove painted the old man's fence. The man's wife left Ove an apple pie on his doorstep the next day. Ove began throwing away the letters from the council and finished repairing his house. He'd learned that he liked houses because they were fair and understandable, unlike people.
Here, when Ove neglects his routine, he begins to form a friendship and a community with his neighbor. This is an early indicator that though Ove's love of routine isn't necessarily bad, changing his routine can have positive outcomes. We see too that Ove is becoming increasingly distrustful of people and leaning more and more on physical things, like houses, to provide him the security and comfort he craves.
One Sunday, a man in a suit appeared at Ove's gate and asked Ove for water. Ove gave him some and they ended up sitting in Ove's kitchen talking about remodeling houses for an hour. When Ove admitted to the man that he didn't have house insurance, the man admitted he was an insurance agent, made a phone call, and set Ove up with a policy. Ove paid his premium and was happy when the man said he'd come by again to talk about renovating houses. The man never returned, and Ove was disappointed.
Despite Ove's wary nature, he decides to trust this man when he's made to understand that his beloved house is at risk. This shows that physical objects like houses and cars can be tools for bringing Ove closer to others if he chooses to let them. Ove's sadness that the man never returns indicates that he does crave some kind of community, even if it’s only one based around useful matters.
Ove tried to avoid his neighbors, but several weeks after finishing his house one of the neighbors was robbed. The neighbors figured that Ove stole money to renovate his house and began leaving threatening notes and throwing stones at Ove's window. Ove did nothing but replace his window. Days later, Ove woke to the smell of smoke. He ran downstairs in his underwear and grabbed a hammer, figuring that someone had set fire to his house.
This event provides an explanation for why Ove in the present feels so strongly about patrolling for burglars—burglars were his downfall in this neighborhood. Ove also jumps to conclusions that his neighbors are out to get him, which is indicative of his great distrust of people he views as unprincipled.
When Ove reached his porch, he realized it was his elderly neighbor's house burning, not his own. The man and his wife were out of the house. Ove knew that his own house was going to catch fire if he didn't get out his water hose immediately. When the wife started screaming a name, Ove realized their grandson was still in the burning house. Ove thought of what his father would do and ran into the burning building with his neighbor. They emerged a few minutes later with the boy.
Ove's father continues to be a force in Ove's life that reminds him of the proper way to act. Here, Ove's father insists that Ove value human life over saving his house, which shows that Ove at least believes in theory that people are more important than objects. Ove does value love and community to some extent.
By that time, the fire department had arrived and the fire had reached Ove's house. When Ove ran to put out the fire, a man in a white shirt explained to Ove that he wasn't allowed to fight the fire on his house, and they weren't either due to the funky municipal boundary. The man told Ove that rules are rules. By the time the fire department got permission, the house was gone. Later, when Ove called his insurance company, he learned that his insurance "agent" wasn't an agent at all and his policy was phony.
Ove learns from this man in the white shirt that rules for rules' sake are more important than doing things that actually help people. This, combined with Ove's realization that his insurance agent wasn't an agent at all, explains Ove's deep distrust of government entities and people trying to sell him things. They took away the one thing he loved at this point when they couldn't save, and then couldn't rebuild, his house.