Anxious People

Anxious People

by

Fredrik Backman

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Anxious People: Chapter 52 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Back in the hostage drama, Jack wants to contact the bank robber in any way that doesn’t involve Jim going up with the pizzas. It’d be easier to know for sure the bomb isn’t a bomb if it wasn’t his dad going in. So, Jack tells the negotiator that before his colleague goes in, he’d like to go into the building across the street to see if he can see into the stairwell. The negotiator thinks, but doesn’t say, that he’s impressed that Jack referred to his dad as his colleague. They remain on the phone as Jack climbs the stairs and explains that there are no other officers to help; the two officers he called in as backup are drunk and waiting for their wives to drive them in. He explains that people take New Year’s Eve seriously here. 
In this passage, Jack walks a fine line between being an almost overprotective son and a cool, calculating colleague who just so happens to work with his dad. His fear, moreover, mirrors the fear he felt earlier for his mom, in the flashback about his mom getting hurt in a riot abroad. This highlights that within the novel, kids, too, experience fear and want to care for their parents. That the negotiator thinks so highly of Jack for referring to his dad as just a colleague may explain why Jack is trying so hard to be so professional. He wants to impress his superiors, and being an officer first and a son second impresses them.
Themes
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Then, Jack asks if the negotiator has been involved in a hostage situation before. The negotiator says he has; the hostage-taker let the hostages go after four hours of talking. By now, Jack can see in the window across the street that there’s a box labeled “CHRISTMAS”; there is no bomb. The negotiator describes how, in the last situation, he ended up telling the hostage-taker a crude joke, just to keep the conversation going. Jack stops suddenly: there’s a woman in her 50s on the balcony of the hostage apartment, wearing headphones. She looks bored and not at all afraid. Jack reiterates that they’re not dealing with a pro—the robber tried to rob a cashless bank after all. Then, the negotiator reveals that the last hostage-taker shot himself.
At first, the negotiator seems to be trying to show off to Jack that he’s capable of fixing this situation, just as he did in the last one. But then, as the negotiator reveals that the last hostage-taker died by suicide, it gives new meaning to Jack’s mom’s advice for people to help who they can. The negotiator couldn’t help that person, and there’s no real guarantee that the negotiator is going to be able to help the robber, either. Seeing what seems like Zara looking bored on the balcony highlights again that the police are misreading the situation—nobody is in real danger. Interpreting Zara’s expression as bored, meanwhile, suggests that they’re also misjudging her, as she’s currently wracked with grief and regret.
Themes
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
As Jack heads back downstairs, the negotiator asks why Jack turned down the job offer in Stockholm. The negotiator says he spoke to his boss before he left today, and she said Jack is the best but keeps turning down her job offers. Jack snorts that Stockholmers think everything revolves around their city, but the negotiator says he grew up in a town so small that people from Jack’s town were the Stockholmers. He asks if Jim knows about the job offer. Just then, Jack notices that Jim isn’t still on the street. Jack curses and hangs up.
For someone who wants to prove himself and make a good impression, it’s a bit surprising that Jack has refused multiple job offers in Stockholm. This suggests that something—perhaps his dad, or perhaps his dislike of Stockholmers—is keeping him in his small town. If love for Jim is keeping Jack at home, it would imply that Jack is actually more invested in his relationship with his family members than in his career.
Themes
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon