Anxious People

Anxious People

by

Fredrik Backman

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Anxious People: Chapter 1  Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It was simple, really. All it took to get to this point—a bank robbery, a hostage drama, and a bunch of police officers ready to storm an apartment—was a really bad idea. So, this story is mostly about idiots. However, one must remember that it’s easy to call other people idiots if you forget how hard it is to be human. People have to cope with so much. They have jobs, they pay taxes, and they have to remember their Wi-Fi password. People fall in love and pretend they’re normal and are good parents. Sometimes people panic. Failing at being a good person is so easy. Everyone who loves someone can be pushed to make a choice that is terrible in hindsight—but seems like the only option in the moment.
The novel’s introduction presents several conflicting ideas: first, that there are bad things happening (such as the hostage drama and a bank robbery), but then, that readers should sympathize with the person or people responsible for instigating these bad events. After all, the narrator suggests, those people are not so different from readers, who also may struggle to remember their Wi-Fi password and make other mistakes. This primes readers to see whoever’s responsible in a sympathetic, understanding light—they’re not a bad person, they just made a really bad choice. 
Themes
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Quotes
For instance, earlier this morning, a 39-year-old resident of a medium-size town left home with a pistol, a bad idea in hindsight. This person planned to rob a bank, but that didn’t go as planned. So, remembering their alcoholic mother’s advice to run if you’re not smart enough to do something right the first time, the bank robber ran, terrified, across the street and through the first door they saw. Once they got in, they discovered the only place to go was up the stairs.
There is a singular bank robber, and this passage highlights how frightened the robber is. This makes them a sympathetic figure, especially when combined with the aside that they grew up with an alcoholic mother. They perhaps come from difficult circumstances—or at the very least, have fallen on hard times if they feel the need to rob a bank.
Themes
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
The bank robber is your average 39-year-old, one who eats cheese and carbs instead of working out. They were out of breath when they reached the top of the stairwell and stumbled into an apartment, which was for sale and full of prospective buyers. This is how the story turned into a hostage drama. The drama went on for a few hours until the robber finally released the eight hostages, and the police stormed the apartment—but by then, the robber was gone.
The bank robber looks increasingly normal and relatable as the narrator describes their cheese and carb habit—this makes them “average” and possibly more like the reader. It’s also revealed that the hostage drama portion wasn’t intentional; the robber never intended to frighten people. Further, this passage sets up a mystery: where does the robber go after releasing the hostages?
Themes
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon