Beartown

Themes and Colors
Community Breakdown and Inequality Theme Icon
Culture, Character, and Entitlement Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Loyalty and Belonging Theme Icon
Resistance and Courage Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Beartown, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Beartown is set in a hockey-obsessed, rural Swedish town that has seen better days. Fredrik Backman paints a gritty yet sympathetic picture of a community whose self-respect has withered: “These days almost everyone is asking themselves if it is actually possible. Living here any longer. Asking themselves if there’s anything left, apart from property values that seem to fall as rapidly as the temperature.” The one thing Beartown has left is its junior hockey team…

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Beartown starts out with an ironic reflection on the “unimportance” of hockey: “[I]t’s only a game. It only resolves tiny, insignificant things. Such as who gets validation. Who gets listened to. It allocates power and draws boundaries and turns some people into stars and others into spectators. That’s all.” These functions of hockey play out in various ways throughout the book. They are most evident, however, in the story of Maya’s assault and the…

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Beartown is filled with stories of parents and children—stories of love, loss, disappointment, and failure. Even parents’ best intentions for their children can end up causing harm, both to their children and to others. Some of the deepest anguish in the story comes when parents face their failures to protect their children—not only do they usually fall short, but their efforts backfire. On the other hand, parents who encourage their children to break harmful patterns…

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In Beartown, the youth hockey team’s success revives a sense of community cohesion and loyalty for the first time in decades. However, this cohesion is shattered after Kevin Erdahl assaults Maya Andersson, leading people to quickly turn against one another—and most of them turn against Maya, blaming her instead of her attacker. By showing how this division plays out both in town politics and within individual relationships, Backman argues that loyalty can be…

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In Beartown, Backman comments: “There are few words that are harder to explain than ‘loyalty.’ It’s always regarded as a positive characteristic, because a lot of people would say that many of the best things people do for each other occur precisely because of loyalty.” However, loyalty often has a dark side, too, when those who aren’t “loyal” become targets. Backman explores this dark side through the resistance and courage of several characters, especially…

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