Anxious People

Anxious People

by

Fredrik Backman

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Ten years before the novel begins, the man died by suicide by jumping off a bridge. He’d put all his money into investments, and when the housing market crashed in the United States, he lost everything. Devastated when Zara wouldn’t grant him a loan to pay his debts and disheartened by his perception that society judges even great parents only by their parenting mistakes, he wrote Zara a letter and went to the bridge. Though teenage Jack tried to talk him down, the man jumped anyway. And though Zara spends the following 10 years convinced that the man’s letter will blame her for his choice, the letter actually tells Zara that it wasn’t her fault. The man’s suicide also inspired Nadia to consider jumping off the bridge, though Jack pulled her off the railing before she could jump.

The Man on the Bridge Quotes in Anxious People

The Anxious People quotes below are all either spoken by The Man on the Bridge or refer to The Man on the Bridge. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
).
Chapter 5 Quotes

So you would have tried to talk to him, gain his trust, persuade him not to do it. Because you’ve probably been depressed yourself, you’ve had days when you’ve been in terrible pain in places that don’t show up in X-rays, when you can’t find the words to explain it even to the people who love you. Deep down, […] a lot of us know that the difference between us and that man on the bridge is smaller than we might wish. Most adults have had a number of really bad moments, and of course not even fairly happy people manage to be happy the whole darn time. So you would have tried to save him. Because it’s possible to end your life by mistake, but you have to choose to jump.

Related Symbols: The Bridge
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

“Do you know what the worst thing about being a parent is? That you’re always judged by your worst moments. You can do a million things right, but if you do one single thing wrong you’re forever that parent who was checking his phone in the park when your child was hit in the head by a swing. We don’t take our eyes off them for days at a time, but then you read just one text message and it’s as if all your best moments never happened. No one goes to see a psychologist to talk about the times they weren’t hit in the head by a swing as a child. Parents are defined by their mistakes.”

Related Symbols: The Bridge
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 26 Quotes

In the meantime Zara was standing in the elevator. Halfway down she pressed the emergency stop button so she could cry in peace. The letter in her handbag was still unopened, Zara had never dared read it, because she knew the psychologist was right. Zara was one of the people who deep down wouldn’t be able to live with knowing that about herself.

Related Symbols: The Bridge, Zara’s Letter
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 36 Quotes

“Stockholm” is, after all, an expression more than it is a place, both for men like Roger and for most of the rest of us, just a symbolic word to denote all the irritating people who get in the way of our happiness. People who think they’re better than us. Bankers who say no when we apply for a loan, psychologists who ask questions when we only want sleeping pills, old men who steal the apartments we want to renovate, rabbits who steal our wives. Everyone who doesn’t see us, doesn’t understand us, doesn’t care about us.

Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 53 Quotes

“Apartments aren’t supposed to be investments,” Zara replied gloomily.

“What are they supposed to be, then?”

“Homes.”

“Are you some sort of communist?” the rabbit chuckled.

Zara felt like punching him on the nose for that, but instead she pointed between his ears and said: “When the financial crisis hit ten years ago, a man jumped off that bridge because of a property market crash on the other side of the world. Innocent people lost their jobs and the guilty were given bonuses. You know why?”

“Now you’re exaggerat—”

“Because people like you don’t care about the balance in the system.”

Related Characters: Zara/The Woman (speaker), Lennart/The Rabbit (speaker), The Man on the Bridge
Related Symbols: The Bridge
Page Number: 233
Explanation and Analysis:

She was no longer talking to Lennart, but exactly who she was talking to probably wasn’t clear even to her, but it felt like she’d been waiting ten years to yell at someone. Anyone at all. Herself most of all. So she roared: “People like you and me are the problem, don’t you get that? We always defend ourselves by saying we’re only offering a service. That we’re just one tiny part of the market. That everything is people’s own fault. That they’re greedy, that they shouldn’t have given us their money. And then we have the nerve to wonder why stock markets crash and the city is full of rats…”

Related Characters: Zara/The Woman (speaker), Lennart/The Rabbit (speaker), The Man on the Bridge
Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 62 Quotes

“I just said Knut was parking the car because I get lonely sometimes. And it feels better to pretend that he’s on his way. Especially at this time of year, he always used to like New Year, we used to stand at the kitchen window watching the fireworks. Well…we used to stand on the balcony for years…but I couldn’t bring myself to go out there after something that happened down on the bridge ten years ago. It’s a long story.”

Related Symbols: The Bridge
Page Number: 282
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 70 Quotes

The man who sent it to her ten years ago wrote down everything he thought she needed to know. It was the last thing he ever told anyone. Only four words in length, no more than that. The four biggest little words one person, anyone at all, can say to another:

It wasn’t your fault.

By the time the letter hits the water Zara is already walking away, toward the far side of the bridge. There’s a car parked there, waiting for her. Lennart is inside it. Their eyes meet when she opens the door. He lets her put the music on as loud as she wants. She’s planning to do her utmost to get tired of him.

Related Characters: The Man on the Bridge (speaker), Zara/The Woman, Lennart/The Rabbit
Related Symbols: The Bridge, Zara’s Letter
Page Number: 322-323
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Anxious People LitChart as a printable PDF.
Anxious People PDF

The Man on the Bridge Character Timeline in Anxious People

The timeline below shows where the character The Man on the Bridge appears in Anxious People. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2 
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Ten years before the hostage drama, a man stood on a bridge. This story isn’t about him so readers shouldn’t think about him... (full context)
Chapter 5
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Now it’s time to return to the man on the bridge. That man wrote a note and mailed it, dropped his kids at... (full context)
Chapter 10
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Ten years ago, the first person the man on the bridge saw was a teenage boy. That boy ran to help, since his... (full context)
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
The man continued. He told the boy he’d had a great job and then set up his... (full context)
Chapter 11
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Ten years later, in the present, the young policeman stands outside the interview room, while his dad sits inside with the real estate agent.... (full context)
Chapter 12
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Back in the interview with the real estate agent, the older policeman awkwardly explains that the young policeman is his son. He adds that his wife didn’t... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The narrator says that truthfully, the man on the bridge didn’t make the boy want to be a policeman. It was the... (full context)
Chapter 18
The Modern World Theme Icon
The only thing the bank robber and the man on the bridge 10 years ago have in common is “moral hazard.” This is a... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
The man went to a different bank to borrow money to pay his debts. But the woman... (full context)
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
...became a parent anyway, they swore they wouldn’t be a “chaotic parent.” God laughed. The man on the bridge, meanwhile, wrote the woman at the bank a letter, writing “exactly what... (full context)
Chapter 27
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Ten years ago, a man wrote and mailed a letter to a woman at the bank and then jumped off... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...a view of the bridge. Zara is at the apartment because 10 years ago, the man who jumped wrote her a letter. Zara has been carrying that letter with her everywhere,... (full context)
Chapter 53
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
...him of thinking capitalism is good only when artists benefit from it. She says he’s manipulating the economic system and says that apartments aren’t supposed to be investments. They’re supposed to... (full context)
Chapter 56
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World 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... (full context)
Chapter 69
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...Zara can’t say that she came here the first time exactly 10 years after the man jumped. She can’t say that she needs someone to read what the man wrote and... (full context)
Chapter 70
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...and finally, Zara’s fingers can stop struggling to hold that letter. Ten years ago, the man wrote everything he wanted Zara to know. His letter was only four words, but they’re... (full context)
Chapter 73
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Jack knocks on the office door. It’s been 10 years since a man jumped and a young woman didn’t. As soon as Nadia opens the door, Jack recognizes... (full context)