Anxious People

Anxious People


Fredrik Backman

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Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Anxious People, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon

Many of the characters in Anxious People are married (or, in the bank robber’s case, are in the process of getting a divorce). As such, Anxious People shows a variety of marriages in many different stages—and degrees of health. Overwhelmingly, Anxious People shows that marriage requires hard work, sacrifice, and most importantly, a willingness from both parties to communicate openly and honestly. None of the couples in the novel are able to do this all the time. Anna-Lena and Roger, a retired couple, are at odds after Roger spent years putting his job on hold to care for their kids while Anna-Lena worked a high-powered job. Since retiring, Anna-Lena has stepped back and now allows Roger to dictate the course of their lives. So, they adopt a shared hobby of buying apartments together, renovating them, and then selling them. But though Anna-Lena is unhappy doing this, after watching Roger sacrifice so much for her, she feels unable to tell him the truth: that she wants a home, not an investment property. Julia and Ro, a much younger couple, fight all the time—in part because Julia is pregnant and her “personality when she [is] drunk [is] exactly the same as Julia’s personality when she [is] pregnant” (that is, belligerent and combative), and in part because Ro is afraid to move. Ro’s dad suffers from dementia, and she feels unable to commit to buying an apartment if her dad can’t check it out first and tell her it’s going to be okay. But just like Anna-Lena, Ro isn’t able to voice this to her spouse, so she and Julia remain at odds for much of the novel.

However, the novel presents fighting as a normal part of marriage and not inherently something devastating. Estelle, an elderly woman who lost her husband Knut sometime before the novel begins, offers Julia and Anna-Lena the advice that couples just have to be better at making up than they are at fighting. This, she explains, is what allowed her and Knut to share a happy decades-long marriage. Marriage, the novel suggests, is seldom without conflict, but it can remain happy and fulfilling when partners are willing to communicate and work together to ensure each other’s happiness.

Related Themes from Other Texts
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Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Quotes in Anxious People

Below you will find the important quotes in Anxious People related to the theme of Marriage, Conflict, and Communication.
Chapter 28 Quotes

When you’ve been together for a very long time, it’s the little things that matter. In a long marriage you don’t need words to have a row, but you don’t need words to say “I love you,” either. Once when they were at IKEA, very recently, Roger had suggested when they were having lunch in the cafeteria that they each have a piece of cake. Because he understood that it was an important day for Anna-Lena, and because it was important to her it was important to him as well. Because that’s how he loves her.

Related Characters: Anna-Lena, Roger
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 36 Quotes

“Do you mean to say that…but…what about all my negotiations with the Realtor? All my tactics?”

Anna-Lena couldn’t meet his gaze.

“You get so upset when you lose a bid. I just wanted you to…win.”

She wasn’t telling the whole truth. That she had become the sort of person who just wanted a home. That she wanted to stop now. That she’d like to go to the movies occasionally and see something made-up instead of yet another documentary on television. That she didn’t want to be a shark. She was worried that the betrayal would be too much for Roger.

Related Characters: Anna-Lena (speaker), Roger (speaker), Lennart/The Rabbit
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 38 Quotes

“Since [Julia] got pregnant everything’s become so serious, because parents are always serious and I suppose we’re trying to fit in. Sometimes I don’t think I’m ready for the responsibility—I mean, I think my phone is asking too much of me when it wants me to install an update, and I find myself yelling: ‘You’re suffocating me.’ You can’t shout that at a child. And children have to be updated all the time, because they can kill themselves just crossing the street or eating a peanut! I’ve mislaid my phone three times already today, I don’t know if I’m ready for a human being.”

Related Characters: Ro (speaker), The Bank Robber, Roger, Julia
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 56 Quotes

“What did you used to do?” the young woman asked.

Anna-Lena filled her lungs, simultaneously hesitant and proud.

“I was an analyst for an industrial company. Well, I suppose I was the senior analyst, really, but I did my best not to be.”

“Senior analyst?” Julia repeated, instantly ashamed of how that sounded.

Anna-Lena saw the surprise in her eyes, but she was used to it and didn’t take offense.

Related Characters: Anna-Lena (speaker), Julia (speaker), Roger, Estelle
Page Number: 251
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 Characters: Estelle (speaker), The Bank Robber, Zara/The Woman, Nadia/The Psychologist/The Girl, Jack/The Young Policeman/The Boy, The Man on the Bridge, Knut
Related Symbols: The Bridge
Page Number: 282
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 66 Quotes

“Sometimes I think that when you live together for a very long time, and have children together, life is a bit like climbing trees. Up and down, up and down, you try to cope with everything, be good, you climb and climb and climb, and you hardly ever see each other along the way. You don’t notice that when you’re young, but everything changes when you have children, and sometimes it feels like you hardly ever see the person you married anymore. You’re parents and teammates, first and foremost, and being married slips down the list of priorities. But you…well, you keep climbing trees, and see each other along the way.”

Related Characters: Anna-Lena (speaker), The Bank Robber, Roger, Julia, Ro, Lennart/The Rabbit, Estelle
Page Number: 300-301
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 67 Quotes

“You’re a good police officer, son,” Jim will say, looking down at the ground. He’ll want to add but an even better person, but won’t be able to bring himself to say it.

“You’re not always such a damn good police officer, Dad,” Jack will grin up at the clouds. He’ll want to add but I’ve learned everything else from you, but the words won’t quite come out.

They’ll go home. Watch television. Have a beer together.

That’s enough.

Related Characters: Jack/The Young Policeman/The Boy (speaker), Jim/Jack’s Dad/The Older Policeman (speaker), The Bank Robber, Anna-Lena, Roger, Jack’s Mom/Jim’s Wife
Page Number: 312
Explanation and Analysis: