A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ove stays in the parked Saab for nearly twenty minutes. The cat gets agitated and then falls asleep. Ove looks over the parking area and thinks about his friendship with Rune. Rune and Anita had moved in the same day that Ove and Sonja did, and Sonja and Anita became best friends immediately. Anita was also pregnant, and the women felt their husbands should be friends. Ove resisted because Rune drove a Volvo, but soon they lent each other tools and talked about lawnmowers. When more people started moving to the area, Ove and Rune established the Residents' Association and the rules for the neighborhood.
Remember the narrator stating that Ove wasn't one for thinking about feelings—the fact that Ove is spending more time in reveries like this is indicative of how he's beginning to change and become more introspective. Ove is wary of anyone who doesn't drive a Saab, but Volvos are also Swedish cars, which makes Rune a reasonable ally. They share similar principles and a love of rules, and appear to work well together when they put their minds to a task.
Themes
Rules and Order Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
Principles, Fairness, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Ove and Rune talked about their wives' raging pregnancy hormones. Anita kept putting the coffee pot in the fridge, while Sonja developed a short temper and was alternately sweating and freezing. Rune told Ove one day that he found Anita crying because she heard a nice song on the radio.
Their wives' hormonal roller coasters are even more foreign to these principled and structured men than women are in general. All sense of principles and rules go out the window during this time when Sonja and Anita are pregnant.
Themes
Rules and Order Theme Icon
Principles, Fairness, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Sonja played music for her belly to make the child move, and Ove worried that he wasn't going to be a good father. Sonja suggested Ove talk to Rune about it and laughed when Ove asked for an instruction manual. Ove and Rune ended up standing around in Ove's shed while their wives talked in the kitchen. After three nights of this, they began building blue cribs and then put them in their nurseries. Sonja cried when she saw hers and told Ove she wanted to get married. They got married at the town hall with Rune and Anita and went out for dinner after. Ove and Rune argued with the waiter about the bill for an hour while their wives took a taxi home.
Here, both Ove and Rune follow Ove's principle of doing things rather than just talking about things. They deal with their confused emotions about becoming fathers by making something useful, by hand, that will help them in their role as parents. The fact that they painted the cribs blue suggests that both Ove and Rune hoped for boys to share their principles with, rather than girls who would, they presume, be emotional and beyond their understanding.
Themes
Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
Principles, Fairness, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Back in the present day, Ove finally wakes the cat up and gets out of the Saab. He hears an unfamiliar female voice calling his name in a friendly way. The woman stumbles into the garage and Ove tells her he doesn't want anything. She introduces herself as Lena from the local newspaper, and explains that she's a journalist, as Ove continues to insist he doesn't want a subscription. She tells him that she wants to interview him since he saved a man at the train station yesterday.
Ove is faced with the unpleasant (for him) fact that doing a good deed like saving a man has consequences of fame. He resists the interview so he doesn't have to be known in the much greater community. The paper certainly reaches a wider audience than those who were at the train station or the six houses on Ove's street, and Ove still very much wants to avoid any community outside of his memories of Sonja.
Themes
Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
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Lena loses Ove's attention as he races past her towards the Škoda that's driving in the residential area. Ove bangs on the window and startles the woman in the passenger seat, but the man in the white shirt rolls down his window and seems unconcerned. The man tells Ove that he has permission to drive in the residential area, and lights a cigarette. As Ove curses and keeps pressing the issue, the man in the white shirt explains that they're there to take Rune into care. When Ove reminds the man that Anita doesn't want that, the man tells Ove that Anita doesn't get to decide.
The man in the white shirt knows he has a great deal of power. He's playing by rules that nobody on Ove's street can control or change, and Ove's anger stems in part from the unfairness of this. The man's cigarettes are also a slap in the face to Ove and his love of rules. Smoking is likely not illegal, but the way the man goes about it is certainly not following general codes of conduct that dictate how a person should dispose of their trash appropriately.
Themes
Rules and Order Theme Icon
Principles, Fairness, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Ove tells the man in the white shirt again that he can't drive in the residential area. The man asks Ove what he's going to do about it, and Ove is shocked to hear the man address him by name. The man drives away and Lena comes up behind Ove. Ove asks her how she knows his name and asks Lena how the white-shirt man knows his name. Lena admits that she found Ove's receipt for his train ticket at the station, but doesn't know how the man knows Ove’s name.
All of Ove's secrets are coming out, from his name to the fact that Sonja was in a wheelchair. This violates Ove's love of privacy and ruins his attempts to distance himself from people in his neighborhood, and especially to steer clear of men in white shirts.
Themes
Memory and Grief Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
Ove walks towards his house with the cat, goes inside, and sits on his stool. He's shaking with humiliation and he remembers that you can't fight men in white shirts. The white shirts haven't been in the neighborhood since he and Sonja returned from Spain after the accident.
Ove is obviously haunted by the accident that took place in Spain, and what's happening with Rune now sends Ove right back into those unpleasant memories. This suggests too that Ove might not be fully recovered emotionally from the accident.
Themes
Memory and Grief Theme Icon