Anxious People

Anxious People

by

Fredrik Backman

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The Bridge Symbol Icon

The bridge is a symbol for connection, though this isn’t at all clear at first—one of the first things the novel shares with readers is that 10 years ago, a man died by suicide by jumping off the bridge. That man may have used the bridge to die by suicide, but as Roger, a retired engineer, says, it wasn’t the bridge’s fault and, in fact, bridges exist to bring people together. Though Roger means this literally (in that bridges physically connect people on different sides of a body of water), throughout the novel, the narrator highlights how the bridge and the man’s suicide unwittingly bring a number of very different people together to form meaningful bonds, as well. The bridge brings Jack, who tried unsuccessfully to talk the man down, to Nadia, a girl who tried to jump a week after the man—and whom Jack saved. Zara, who runs a bank, believes she caused the man to die by suicide by denying him a loan, and she spends the next decade carrying the letter the man left her in her purse and secretly following Nadia’s trajectory to becoming a psychologist. Zara also develops the hobby of attending apartment viewings of apartments with balconies and a view of the bridge, which ultimately brings her into contact with the bank robber and the other hostages in the apartment. The narrator highlights this symbolism when they suggest that Anxious People might be a story about a bridge—it’s not necessarily a story about negative things like a hostage drama or a bank robbery, but about the positive connections people form when they come together and listen to one another’s stories.

The Bridge Quotes in Anxious People

The Anxious People quotes below all refer to the symbol of 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 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:
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 Bridge Symbol Timeline in Anxious People

The timeline below shows where the symbol 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 now. Readers just need... (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 school, and then... (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 mom was a... (full context)
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
...when they rolled their eyes at his “I love you.” Then, he climbed onto the bridge. The boy believed then that he was going to save the man—but the man jumped... (full context)
Chapter 12
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
...too sensitive to be a police officer. His son saw a man jump off a bridge 10 years ago, and now his son wants to save everyone, even the bad guys... (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 teenage girl who... (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 banking term that... (full context)
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
...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 he wanted her... (full context)
Chapter 20
The Modern World Theme Icon
...feel safer. They slept in the storeroom for a week, until an apartment near the bridge came up for 6,500 kroner per month. The robber figured they could sell everything and... (full context)
Chapter 24
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
...which she painted. She never noticed that the woman in it is standing on a bridge. (full context)
Chapter 26
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...has specific criteria: they must have balconies, and they must have a view of the bridge. Meanwhile, Zara stops the elevator and sobs in it. She’s never read the letter in... (full context)
Chapter 27
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
...and mailed a letter to a woman at the bank and then jumped off a bridge. A week later, a teenage girl, Nadia, stands on the bridge. There’s nothing obviously wrong... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...up in a hostage drama—in an apartment with a balcony and a view of the bridge. Zara is at the apartment because 10 years ago, the man who jumped wrote her... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Zara found Nadia’s wallet and has been secretly following Nadia since. She’s been watching the bridge, from apartment balconies, for 10 years—perhaps she’s afraid that if she actually goes to the... (full context)
Chapter 28
The Modern World Theme Icon
...lives. She circles the apartment and then goes onto the balcony and stares at the bridge until she shakes. Inside, she can hear two married couples arguing. (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
From the balcony, Zara can hear Anna-Lena and Roger. She’s staring at the bridge, crying, and feeling nauseous as she tries to decide if she'd like to jump. Then,... (full context)
Chapter 51
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...out ahead of time, they feel smart. This story is about a hostage drama, a bridge, idiots, and an apartment viewing. It’s also a love story. (full context)
Chapter 53
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
...investments. They’re supposed to be homes. Angrily, Zara says that a man jumped off a bridge 10 years ago when the property market crashed on the other side of the world.... (full context)
Chapter 56
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 66
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
...exclaims that there are fireworks going off outside. Jim is setting them off by the bridge and fortunately, he likes fireworks. Everyone stands on the balcony to watch, and Estelle thanks... (full context)
Chapter 70
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
The ice covering the bridge sparkles. Zara almost looks like she’s ready to jump, but anyone who knows her and... (full context)
Chapter 71
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
...A few weeks ago, as the elk, the monkey, and the frog walked across the bridge, the girls stopped to lock a padlock to the bridge to symbolize their love for... (full context)
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
...up her daughters and tells them she’s had a normal day. As they cross the bridge, she puts a hand on her older daughter’s shoulder and says that the divorce isn’t... (full context)
Chapter 73
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...a floor, and an office number on it. There was also a photo of the bridge and another sealed envelope with a name on it. Zara recognized Jack when she saw... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
...heart turns to confetti.” Leaning against the doorframe, he hands her the envelope with the bridge photo and her office address, and the other envelope with her name on it. Inside... (full context)