A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ove gives his wife (whose name is later revealed to be Sonja) two plants, even though there was only supposed to be one. She doesn't answer anything Ove says, and he remarks that it's unnatural for him to be home alone all the time now. Earlier this morning, Ove had gone through his normal morning routine and also had gone around and checked that his wife hadn't sneakily turned up the radiators. Her turning up the radiators is his indicator that winter is coming, but Ove doesn't believe in giving the power company more money just because it's winter. Instead, he insists his wife use a diesel generator and a fan heater before bed.
Ove is frugal and begins to demonstrate that his frugality comes from a belief that those who wish to take his money (like the power company) are undeserving. This suggests a distrust of organizations and corporations like power companies. Ove's frugality, however, comes at a cost: if Sonja is sneakily turning up radiators, it's easy to believe that the diesel generator isn't enough to keep her warm. Ove prioritizes besting the power company over his wife's comfort. Note again that Ove’s wife doesn’t actually appear—he just thinks about her as being in the house with him.
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Ove considers telling Sonja about the cat, which continues to stick around. Ove is wearing his navy suit, which his wife likes, as well as the watch he inherited from his father. That morning, Ove had unlocked his garage and then his Saab using real keys, not automated systems. As he drove through the parking area, he didn't return the Pregnant Foreign Woman's wave. Driving along rows of houses identical to his own, he remembered when there were only six houses in the area.
Ove's description of his morning shows again that he very much values doing things for himself rather than relying on technology or other people. He continues to distance himself from his neighbors by refusing to wave, and still seems stuck in the past as he remembers what his neighborhood was like long ago.
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It usually takes Ove 14 minutes to reach the florist's, but today a black Mercedes tailgates Ove's Saab. Ove refuses to drive over the speed limit and the Mercedes starts honking at him before finally passing and making rude gestures at Ove. When Ove comes to a red light, he pulls up behind the Mercedes. When the light turns green and nearly a minute passes without any movement, Ove gets out of his car and wonders if it was a woman driver or an Audi holding up traffic. When Ove ends up behind the Mercedes at the next light, he chooses to pull off on a side road to skip traffic.
For Ove, who's Swedish, people who drive foreign cars (here, Mercedes and Audi) are inherently bad people, and this particular Mercedes driver reinforces that idea. He seems to embody what Ove has said he hates about the current generation: he wants only to get where he's going as fast as possible and is willing to do whatever it takes to get there.
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When Ove approaches the shopping center, he notes the two available parking spaces and wonders why everyone is shopping early on a weekday. The narrator says that at times like these, Ove’s wife (Sonja) starts sighing about Ove's desire to find the best parking spot. Ove insists that it's a question of principles, something his wife simply doesn't understand.
Sonja seems to not care much for Ove's “principles” and his insistence on saving gas and getting good parking spots. Notably, Ove actively creates distance between himself and Sonja by saying that she simply doesn't understand. He doesn't allow room for her to understand, or for himself to compromise.
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Ove sees the Mercedes enter the shopping center parking lot, and the two cars begin racing for the two open parking spots. Ove blocks the Mercedes' path and allows a little Toyota to take one of the spots while taking the other one for himself. Ove is pleased that he thwarted the Mercedes until he sees the Lanky One, the Foreign Pregnant Woman, and their three-year-old get out of the Toyota. The three-year-old excitedly introduces herself to Ove as Nasanin but when her parents try to introduce themselves, Ove is already heading for the entrance to the florist's.
Ove's principles do leave room for him to help others, but at this point, only if he's also adhering to his “principles” (and ruining someone else's day in the process). Ove continues to insist on remaining entirely disconnected from his new neighbors and shows no desire to get to know them at all. The three-year-old, on the other hand, very much wants to draw Ove into her family and her community.
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Ove enters the florist's with a coupon and spends 15 minutes arguing with the manager that logically, he should be able to get one plant for 25 kroner since the coupon is for two plants at 50 kroner. The manager finally agrees and when Ove hands him his debit card, the manager points at a sign indicating that there's a 3 kroner surcharge for card purchases less than 50 kroner.
Ove's principles don't always serve him, which again raises the question of why he clings so tightly to them. Notice that Ove is using a debit card despite his negative feelings about technology and modernity. He's not entirely unwilling to adapt when it serves him (or, as we later learn, when Sonja is involved).
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Because of this, Ove now stands in front of Sonja with two plants and explains to her that he wasn't going to pay the surcharge. He tells his wife that the street is turning into a madhouse and explains why he couldn't put the hook up yesterday. He offers her the plants and tells her that they're pink, and then describes the new neighbors. Finally, Ove leans down, digs up the plant from last week, and carefully plants the two new plants. He gently caresses his wife's headstone and tells her that he misses her. The narrator says that she's been gone for six months now, but Ove still inspects the radiators to make sure she hasn't been turning them up.
Finally we learn that Ove has spent the last six months grieving the death of his wife. This provides some explanation for why he clings so tightly to his routines, as the routines provide some sense of safety and sameness even though her death turned his life entirely upside down. This also shows how stuck he is in his ways and his grief, however, if he's checking for changes in the radiators that only she would've made.
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