Anxious People

Anxious People

by

Fredrik Backman

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Anxious People: Chapter 56 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Estelle thinks about death. She remembers Peter Pan saying that “To die will be an awfully big adventure.” That may be so, but not when you’re the person who’s left behind. She misses making Knut laugh so hard he spit his breakfast out, and she tells Julia and Anna-Lena that Knut is dead. But he always dropped her close to their destinations while he parked. Anna-Lena asks if Estelle is really looking for an apartment for her daughter, and Estelle says she isn’t. Her daughter lives with her teenage grandkids, and they like it when Estelle calls on their birthdays, but they don’t really care about her. Estelle says she goes to viewings to listen to people dream, and she describes how Knut spent his last years in a care home. She’d go and read to him. At the end, she’d read to herself.
Estelle reads as very lonely now that Knut is gone. She has a cordial relationship with her daughter and grandkids, but she doesn’t have anyone to make laugh or to make her laugh. In many ways, she’s like Zara: she attends apartment viewings not to scope out the apartment, but so she can meet other needs. Estelle has already made friends with Julia and Anna-Lena, so this offers some hope that Estelle might be able to maintain these relationships after the hostage drama ends.
Themes
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Anna-Lena says that “working life” goes so fast, and when Julia asks, she says she was a senior analyst for an industrial company. Julia’s surprised look doesn’t offend her, and she explains that she didn’t want to be in charge. However, her boss said it’s best to lead by letting other people do what they’re capable of, so Anna-Lena tried to be a teacher. Lots of her subordinates didn’t know she was their boss until she retired, and she liked that. Julia observes that Anna-Lena is full of surprises. Then, suddenly sad, Anna-Lena says that people assume she’s lived life in Roger’s shadow, but he turned down promotions since her job was going so well. It was always supposed to be his turn soon, but his turn never came.
Just as Julia judged Roger earlier, she can’t hide that she’s also been judging Anna-Lena and thinking of her as a subservient housewife. But really, it sounds more like Anna-Lena worked in a job more akin to Zara’s, although in a different industry. Unlike Zara, though, Anna-Lena describes working very, very hard to form close, trusting relationships with her subordinates and not lording her power over them. But being so good at her job did come at a cost: she was never able to give Roger “his turn” while they were both employed.
Themes
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Quotes
Estelle opens the chest again and pulls out cigarettes. Anna-Lena scoffs about what kind of people live here, and Julia patiently explains that she doesn’t smoke. Estelle says you used to just cut down when you got pregnant, but parents today are so concerned about affecting their children—they think everything their child does wrong is their fault. Julia suggests they probably make different versions of older generations’ mistakes. Then, Estelle says she used to smoke on the balcony, but about 10 years ago a man jumped off the bridge. It happened while she abandoned her cigarette outside to look at something on the news.
Estelle seems to think that parents today take their role far too seriously. Julia, though, suggests that parenting hasn’t meaningfully changed all that much in the last 50 years or so—the culture has changed, but parents still make the same mistakes with their kids. As Estelle reveals that she quit smoking on the balcony after the man jumped, the novel reveals one more connection characters have to the bridge. It seems increasingly like the novel’s characters are all somehow connected to the bridge—and thus, to one another.
Themes
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Julia says it’s not Estelle’s fault that the man jumped, but Anna-Lena says it wasn’t the bridge’s fault, either. She explains that Roger found the incident upsetting, because he was an engineer who built bridges. News coverage of the man’s suicide seemed to blame the bridge, but Roger believes that bridges exist to bring people together. Julia finds this both odd and romantic, and because she’s hungry and tired, she blurts that she and her fiancée went to Australia a few years ago to bungee jump off a bridge. That fiancée, she explains, wasn’t Ro. As Julia says this, Jim is on his way up the stairs.
It’s perhaps surprising to hear Roger, such a gruff and uptight person, express such a romantic idea about bridges. And in a way, he’s totally right: bridges exist to bring people together across a body of water. But his assertion can also be applied more metaphorically. For instance, it’s possible to see now that the narrator is correct, and perhaps this is a story about a bridge. It’s a story about how people reacted differently, but also very similarly, to the man’s suicide.
Themes
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
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