Anxious People

Anxious People

by

Fredrik Backman

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Anxious People: Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The box is just a box of Christmas lights, not a bomb. This box is on the floor below the apartment where the hostage drama is taking place. When the postman ran downstairs after seeing the masked robber enter the top-floor apartment, he tripped over the box, so some of the wires are sticking out now. It really looks like Christmas lights, but to Jim, it looks like a bomb. Jim and Jack are on the street, trying to figure out how many people are in the building. Jack’s bosses call and agree to let Jack and Jim enter the building to try to contact the robber, warning them to beware of explosives and such. Jack isn’t bothered, but Jim is Jack’s father, and he’s worried for his son. When they encounter the box, Jim hisses that it’s a bomb and calls Stockholm. Jack won’t forgive him for this.
This passage highlights an incidence of dramatic irony: readers know the box is just Christmas lights, but the characters don’t know this, and so chaos ensues. At first, it seems like Jack is going to get the opportunity to prove himself to his bosses, but Jim destroys that opportunity by calling Stockholm. However, it’s worth noting that Jim is just trying to protect his son, not dash his dreams. He’s trying to be a good parent, but as the novel has already shown, being a good parent is a difficult, messy endeavor.
Themes
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
The bosses decide to call in backup from Stockholm, but the special negotiator who calls Jack explains that he’ll be on the road a while, since it’s the day before New Year’s Eve. The special negotiator orders Jack to “contain the situation” for now. This is enraging, especially since Stockholm is full of idiots. Jim tries to apologize to Jack, but Jack snaps for him to try to call the people in the other apartments. Jim contacts a man who’s clearly fighting with his wife, as well as the couple who owns the apartment across from the one for sale. But the fighting couple isn’t home. (The couple is breaking up because their juicer is the wrong color, and they’ll sell the apartment soon using a real estate agency with a corny name.) Things spiral out of control from here.
Now, Jack has to make the best of the situation. It seems likely that Jack’s bad mood begins here, when Jim deprives him of the opportunity to prove himself, and worsens as the day progresses. As Jim calls the various couples who live in the building, the novel continues to highlight that for lots of people, romantic relationships are difficult. Both couples Jim speaks to are fighting—one so badly that they plan to separate. The robber is clearly in good company in experiencing marital issues, though they remain isolated and never learn for sure that they’re not alone in this regard.
Themes
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon