Anxious People

Anxious People

by

Fredrik Backman

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Anxious People: Chapter 40 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Back in the hostage drama, Julia knocks on the closet door, where Anna-Lena is hiding and lets herself in. Julia suggests they both are tired of everyone else in the apartment, so they have a lot in common. Anna-Lena likes this idea; she hasn’t had anything in common with anyone but Roger for a while. They discuss how Julia is doing and how the robber seems scared, and then Anna-Lena says she seriously hurt Roger. Julia is skeptical, but Anna-Lena says he’s just “sensitive and principled.” As an example, she describes one time that Roger waited 20 minutes to move the car in a parking lot when a young man with a black beard asked if he could have the space. Unconvinced this story will reveal anything nice about Roger, Julia says she knows men like Roger, and Roger is the one with the problem, not Anna-Lena.
Anna-Lena must have led a pretty isolated life for the last little while if Roger is the only person her with whom she has anything in common. Julia fully believes that Roger is an entitled, unfeeling jerk—and the story that Anna-Lena begins to tell about Roger and the young, bearded man seems poised to prove her point. Julia seems to believe that Roger’s “principles” justify spending 20 minutes making sure this man (who’s coded as a nonwhite immigrant) doesn’t get a parking spot and generally feels unwelcome in Sweden. She also believes that Roger is also sexist, since she speaks to Anna-Lena like Anna-Lena is Roger’s victim.
Themes
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Returning to her parking lot story, Anna-Lena says Julia doesn’t understand. On the news that morning, a politician from Roger’s party had said they should stop helping immigrants. Then, later that day, the young man caught Roger and Anna-Lena heading back to their car and asked for Roger’s parking spot. The lot was so busy that it took the man 20 minutes to get there. Roger noticed the man had kids in the car, and he waited. After the man took their spot, Roger told Anna-Lena that he didn’t want the young man to think that all older men were just like the politician. Julia deems this both sweet and ridiculous, but Anna-Lena says it’s possible to disagree about politics but still love someone. Julia knows this; she and Ro also vote for different parties.
When Julia lets Anna-Lena finish, she and readers learn that Roger is actually very noble—he wants to make sure that immigrants feel welcome in Sweden, and if it takes waiting 20 minutes in a crowded parking lot to do that, so be it. On some level, Anna-Lena understands the significance of this story. She told it, after all, to convince Julia that Roger is a good person. But when she simplifies the main point down to the idea that you can be happily married to someone of a different political party, she seems not to grasp how funny she’s being. Indeed, she seems to be trying to convince herself that she and Roger’s marriage will be okay, despite their current argument. 
Themes
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Quotes
Anna-Lena says she never should’ve deceived Roger, but she just wanted him to feel good about himself. All she wants is a home. She reveals that they’ve been together since she was 19, and Julia asks how they do it. Anna-Lena says they love each other until they can’t live without each other—and then if they stop loving each other for a bit, they can’t live without each other. Ro’s parents have been together 40 years, and the thought of being with someone that long horrifies Julia a bit, no matter how much she loves Ro. Waving a hand, Julia says Ro drives her crazy. Anna-Lena says Roger drives her crazy too; he uses her hairdryer to dry his pubic hair. Julia says Ro does the same thing.
Anna-Lena’s intentions are good. In a way, she did exactly what Roger did in the parking lot: she’s trying to be a good person and help someone, but her methods are just a bit out there. Julia is much younger than Anna-Lena and hasn’t been married nearly as long, so the concept of being with someone for decades is barely conceivable to her. But Anna-Lena shows her that longevity in a marriage is possible, especially if both parties go out of their way to support each other (and ignore their partner’s less attractive quirks).
Themes
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Julia and Anna-Lena smile at each other and all they have in common. Anna-Lena says she and Roger have two kids who don’t want to have children of their own. Anna-Lena says that she wishes Roger could feel important again. Julia doesn’t understand, but Anna-Lena says a person is never more important than when they’re holding a three-year-old’s hand. The women sit silently, shivering in a draft.
Finally, Anna-Lena gets at what’s really bothering Roger: that she can’t possibly make him feel as important as caring for another child could. Julia isn’t a parent yet, so she doesn’t fully understand the extent to which kids tend to idolize their parents and guardians. As the robber mused earlier, it’s impossible for her to hate her mother—but this is something Julia will only find out later, after her baby is born. And again, readers should take note of the draft, though the characters continue to ignore it.
Themes
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Quotes
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