A Man Called Ove

White Shirts Symbol Analysis

White Shirts Symbol Icon

White shirts appear repeatedly throughout the book as a symbol of corporatism, incompetence, and the inhumanity of bureaucracy. Men in white shirts prevent young Ove from extinguishing his childhood home when it catches fire. Ove fights with other “men in white shirts” over his wife’s health, and repeatedly yells at yet another man in a white shirt about his driving. In every case, the men who wear white shirts remain nameless and featureless, but they all share something in common: they are bureaucrats. For Ove, the white shirts symbolize the loss of common sense and decency that go hand-in-hand with the loss of human connection. Increasing levels of bureaucracy, it seems, have left people unable to treat one another properly or extend even the most basic levels of care and respect to one another. The white shirts echo the blankness and anonymity of bureaucracy in their very appearance. Though Ove does make a distinction between "suits" and white shirts, the two represent very similar ideas in that they both take actions that go directly against what's actually best for Ove's family. However, when Ove saves the "suit" from an oncoming train after the suit faints at the train station, it stands as an action which stands not only as a testament to Ove’s deep sense of compassion, but as a rebuke of the lack of compassion exhibited by the men in suits and white shirts themselves.

White Shirts Quotes in A Man Called Ove

The A Man Called Ove quotes below all refer to the symbol of White Shirts. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Memory and Grief Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Washington Square Press edition of A Man Called Ove published in 2015.
Chapter 23 Quotes

But everywhere, sooner or later, he was stopped by men in white shirts with strict, smug expressions on their faces. And one couldn't fight them. Not only did they have the state on their side, they were the state.

Related Characters: Ove, Sonja
Related Symbols: White Shirts
Page Number: 204
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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White Shirts Symbol Timeline in A Man Called Ove

The timeline below shows where the symbol White Shirts appears in A Man Called Ove. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
10. A Man Who Was Ove and a House That Ove Built
Memory and Grief Theme Icon
Rules and Order Theme Icon
Principles, Fairness, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
12. A Man Who Was Ove and One Day He Had Enough
Rules and Order Theme Icon
...after the house fire, Ove slept in his car. Two days later, two men in white shirt s showed up. They told him that they'd been sending him letters and explained that... (full context)
Memory and Grief Theme Icon
Rules and Order Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
...shattered quickly when he failed his medical examination. Something was wrong with his heart. The white-shirted army man told Ove that rules are rules. (full context)
15. A Man Called Ove and a Delayed Train
Principles, Fairness, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...the bicycle shed, he sees the white Škoda. In addition to the man in the white shirt , there's a woman in a white shirt in the car. The man nearly runs... (full context)
20. A Man Called Ove and an Intruder
Rules and Order Theme Icon
Principles, Fairness, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Memory and Grief Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Memory and Grief Theme Icon
...his stool. He's shaking with humiliation and he remembers that you can't fight men in white shirt s. The white shirts haven't been in the neighborhood since he and Sonja returned from... (full context)
23. A Man Who Was Ove and a Bus That Never Got There
Memory and Grief Theme Icon
...she told him that they needed to move on. Back in Sweden, Ove met more white shirt s, one of whom wanted to place Sonja in assisted living and spoke as though... (full context)
Memory and Grief Theme Icon
Rules and Order Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
Principles, Fairness, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...sue the council for refusing to install an access ramp at Sonja's school. Men in white shirt s kept stopping Ove, and Ove never forgave them. Finally, one spring day, Sonja stopped... (full context)
30. A Man Called Ove and a Society Without Him
Memory and Grief Theme Icon
Rules and Order Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
...cancer diagnosis four years ago. Sonja forgave the world, while Ove fought the men in white shirt s for insurance and assistance. Sonja gradually reduced her workload and finally quit in her... (full context)
31. A Man Called Ove Backs Up a Trailer. Again.
Rules and Order Theme Icon
...extremely angry, and now he is standing in the road with the man in the white shirt , telling the man that there was nothing good on TV. Unlike all the other... (full context)
Memory and Grief Theme Icon
Rules and Order Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
...neither knows what they're talking about, and Ove suddenly feels drained. He realizes that the white shirt s always come back and win, and that life will go on without Sonja. Ove... (full context)
32. A Man Called Ove Isn't Running a Damned Hotel
Rules and Order Theme Icon
Principles, Fairness, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...the council for everything as a way of managing his frustration. He finally blamed the white shirt s for everything that happened to Sonja, including the miscarriage. (full context)