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
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.
“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.”
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.
“Apartments aren’t supposed to be investments,” Zara replied gloomily.
“What are they supposed to be, then?”
“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.”
“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.”
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.