Anxious People

Anxious People

by

Fredrik Backman

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Anxious People: Chapter 38 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Returning to the hostage drama, Roger stands in the hallway, one hand on the door and the other on his bleeding nose. The bank robber tells him he can go if he wants and then offers him cotton balls; their daughters often get nosebleeds. Roger puts a cotton ball in each nostril, and then he and the robber sit at either end of the bench. Finally, the robber apologizes for involving everyone. They just needed 6,500 kroner to pay rent, and they planned to give the money back with interest. Roger knocks on the wall and asks if they were going to get a fixed or variable interest rate. 
The bank robber is really losing their appetite for trying to control the hostages in any way. But along with this, they’re also becoming more open about their situation and willing to help others, as by offering Roger the cotton balls. Roger humorously doesn’t help by asking what kind of an interest rate the robber planned to get. This is one more thing, the novel might suggest, that adults in today’s society supposedly should know about, but that most actually don’t.
Themes
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
When she comes out of the bathroom, Julia angrily asks Ro if she really let Anna-Lena go off on her own after her “emotionally challenged old fart of a husband” yelled at her. Ro asks if they’re talking about Roger, or if Julia is actually mad at her. Julia stalks off toward the closet. Ro nervously grabs a lime off the coffee table and starts to eat it. To avoid Zara, she squeezes herself in between the robber and Roger on the hall bench (she’s bad about boundaries, just like her dad, and he taught her everything she knows).
Julia is making a lot of assumptions that readers might already guess aren’t true: Roger isn’t a man of many words, but the narrator has made it clear that he does genuinely love Anna-Lena. With the married couples fighting and physically separated, every person in the apartment now has the opportunity to get to know some new people. Ro forces the issue by squeezing in where she doesn’t really fit.
Themes
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Ro apologizes for Julia calling Roger “emotionally challenged” and says that Roger and Anna-Lena aren’t headed for divorce. Roger is shocked (and didn’t hear Julia). Before Ro can stop herself, she admits that she finds divorce late in life romantic. Dejectedly, she says Julia always said she was too positive, but Julia has gotten so serious since she got pregnant, and Ro isn’t sure she’s ready for the responsibility of parenthood—she even feels like updating her phone is too much to handle. Roger warns Ro not to let Julia give birth here, as it’ll drive up the price per square foot.
Whether she means to or not, Ro trivializes the very difficult time that Anna-Lena and Roger are going through. To Anna-Lena and Roger, the possibility of divorce isn’t at all romantic. But then, Ro gets a bit more vulnerable and reveals that she’s speaking out of nervousness. She finds the prospect of parenthood daunting, and it also sounds like she’s questioning her relationship with Julia as they prepare to add a child to their family.
Themes
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Quotes
After a minute, Ro says she doesn’t want to buy this apartment until her dad can look at it, since he checks out everything she buys first to see if it’s a good choice. But he’s not coming, as he has dementia. The bank robber offers condolences. After talking more about her dad, Ro says she’s going to be an awful parent. The bank robber says this isn’t true, but Ro says she knows nothing about kids, can’t make decisions, and is scared all the time. Roger knows exactly what she means. He feels useless and impotent since finding out about the rabbit. Quietly, he says Ro and Julia should buy the apartment, which is in fine shape except for the loose baseboards. Ro says she doesn’t know how to fix baseboards, but Roger says she’ll manage.
It’s not entirely clear, but it seems likely that Ro’s admission about her dad isn’t something she feels comfortable talking about with Julia. However, she’s able to tell two complete strangers about it, highlighting the important role that strangers can play in a person’s life. This admission then allows Roger a moment to connect, as he sees himself in Ro. So, he’s able to step into the role of Ro’s dad for a moment and tell her that the apartment really is fine—and that she, Julia, and their baby will also be fine. 
Themes
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
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