When It Happens

by

Margaret Atwood

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on When It Happens can help.

Frank Burridge Character Analysis

Frank Burridge is Mrs. Burridge’s husband. He is a hard-working and generally kind man, although Mrs. Burridge is regularly annoyed with him and refers to him as “pigheaded.” Frank does a majority of the manual labor around the Burridge house including tending the farm and performing menial tasks such as fixing the cellar stairs. Mrs. Burridge feels that she relies heavily on Frank to survive and does not know what she would do without him. Similarly, Frank relies on Mrs. Burridge to keep him fed and run the home. Mrs. Burridge and Frank know each other well and their marriage has fallen into certain patterns that Mrs. Burridge finds tiring. However, it is difficult to know if Frank feels the same way because the story never reveals his perspective. Largely, Frank leaves his wife alone and does not push her for answers, even when he knows she is lying. Throughout most of the story, Frank moves around in the background as Mrs. Burridge watches him and worries that he has become too weak to protect her. In Mrs. Burridge’s apocalyptic daydream, Frank goes off with Henry Clarke and another farmer to try to find out what is going on. Mrs. Burridge abandons him in the daydream because she thinks he will not come back.

Frank Burridge Quotes in When It Happens

The When It Happens quotes below are all either spoken by Frank Burridge or refer to Frank Burridge. 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:
The Mundane and the Apocalyptic  Theme Icon
).
When It Happens Quotes

It used to annoy Mrs. Burridge, especially the crumbs, but now she watches him with a kind of sadness; she once thought their life together would go on forever but she has come to realize this is not the case.

Related Characters: Mrs. Burridge, Frank Burridge
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

On paper Frank is making more money than he ever has: yet they seem to have less to spend. They could always sell the farm, she supposes, to people from the city who would use it as a weekend place; they could get what seems like a very high price, several of the farms south of them have gone that way. But Mrs. Burridge does not have much faith in money; also it is a waste of the land, this is her home, she has it arranged the way she wants it.

Related Characters: Mrs. Burridge, Frank Burridge
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:

She comes back up the stairs after the last trip. It’s not as easy as it used to be, her knee still bothers her as it has ever since she fell six years ago, she tripped on the second-last step. She’s asked Frank a million times to fix the stairs but he hasn’t done it, that’s what she means by pig-headed. If she asks him more than twice to do something he calls it nagging, and maybe it is, but who’s going to do it if he won’t? The cold vacant hole at the back of this question is too much for her.

Related Characters: Mrs. Burridge, Frank Burridge
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

He can’t protect me. She doesn’t think this on purpose, it simply occurs to her, and it isn’t only him, it’s all of them, they’ve lost the power, you can tell by the way they walk. They are all waiting, just as Mrs. Burridge is, for whatever it is to happen. Whether they realize it or not.

Related Characters: Mrs. Burridge, Frank Burridge
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

It is about this time too that she takes one of the guns, she thinks it will be the shotgun as she will have a better chance of hitting something, and hides it along with the shells, under a piece of roofing behind the barn. She does not tell Frank; he will have the twenty-two. She has already picked out the spot.

Related Characters: Mrs. Burridge, Frank Burridge
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:

He comes out, kisses her goodbye, which is unusual too, and says he’ll be back in a couple of hours. She watches the three of them drive off in Henry Clarke’s truck, towards the smoke, she knows he will not come back. She supposes she ought to feel more emotional about it, but she is well prepared, she has been saying goodbye to him silently for years.

Related Characters: Mrs. Burridge, Frank Burridge, Henry Clarke
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire When It Happens LitChart as a printable PDF.
When It Happens PDF

Frank Burridge Character Timeline in When It Happens

The timeline below shows where the character Frank Burridge appears in When It Happens. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
When It Happens
Control vs. Lack of Control Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Isolation Theme Icon
The Patterns of Domestic Life Theme Icon
...picking all she could find after hearing a frost was coming. She makes her husband Frank help her—which she says he likes to do—although she knows she can do the task... (full context)
Control vs. Lack of Control Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Isolation Theme Icon
The Patterns of Domestic Life Theme Icon
...feels as though she has grown wealthier, despite the relative uselessness of the green tomatoes. Frank is skeptical that the two of them can eat such a large amount of green... (full context)
Family, Community, and Isolation Theme Icon
The Patterns of Domestic Life Theme Icon
Mrs. Burridge regularly jokes with Frank about how much he eats. She no longer gets any joy out of doing this,... (full context)
Control vs. Lack of Control Theme Icon
The Patterns of Domestic Life Theme Icon
Although Frank brings in more money than ever, Mrs. Burridge feels as though they are becoming poorer.... (full context)
The Mundane and the Apocalyptic  Theme Icon
...on the horizon. However, she does not tell anyone about what she is thinking, including Frank. When Frank asks her about what she is doing, she tells a bad lie and... (full context)
The Mundane and the Apocalyptic  Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Isolation Theme Icon
The Patterns of Domestic Life Theme Icon
Frank does not press Mrs. Burridge on her lie any further. She thinks it’s because he... (full context)
The Mundane and the Apocalyptic  Theme Icon
Control vs. Lack of Control Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Isolation Theme Icon
...the food in the cellar used to make Mrs. Burridge feels safe because she and Frank would be okay if bad weather temporarily cut them off from civilization. However, now Mrs.... (full context)
Control vs. Lack of Control Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Isolation Theme Icon
The Patterns of Domestic Life Theme Icon
...Burridge because her knee bothers her from tripping up them previously. Mrs. Burridge repeatedly asks Frank to fix the stairs to avoid subsequent falls, but he has yet to do so.... (full context)
The Mundane and the Apocalyptic  Theme Icon
Control vs. Lack of Control Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Isolation Theme Icon
...to the back window where the view is more or less the same. She sees Franks moving to their barn with something that looks like a wrench in his hand. Frank... (full context)
The Mundane and the Apocalyptic  Theme Icon
Control vs. Lack of Control Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Isolation Theme Icon
...Mrs. Burridge relates to the fear and so, for the last few weeks, she’s wanted Frank to show her how to handle one of his guns. Frank typically uses his guns... (full context)
The Mundane and the Apocalyptic  Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Isolation Theme Icon
Mrs. Burridge knows she will never hear Frank’s response to her question because she never plans to ask him. She does not want... (full context)
The Mundane and the Apocalyptic  Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Isolation Theme Icon
...She also thinks about her wedding photos, which show her in satin—a decision she regrets—and Frank in a suit that he only puts on now to go to funerals. In addition,... (full context)
The Mundane and the Apocalyptic  Theme Icon
Control vs. Lack of Control Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Isolation Theme Icon
...Mrs. Burridge starts seeing men on the back road, she plans to take one of Frank’s guns, probably the shotgun, and hide it under the roofing that sits on the backside... (full context)
The Mundane and the Apocalyptic  Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Isolation Theme Icon
...food. However, Mrs. Burridge is worried that is no longer the case. Instead, she and Frank will be completely isolated, and no electricity means no radio, television, or music.  (full context)
The Mundane and the Apocalyptic  Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Isolation Theme Icon
One day, Mrs. Burridge wakes up to find “columns of smoke,” so she finds Frank and the two of them stand and watch. It looks as though something has blown... (full context)
The Mundane and the Apocalyptic  Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Isolation Theme Icon
Mrs. Burridge “knows” Frank will not be back. She is not emotional about this moment because “she has been... (full context)
The Mundane and the Apocalyptic  Theme Icon
Control vs. Lack of Control Theme Icon
...then remembers that she does not know how to do so herself; it was always Frank’s job. Instead, she opens the gates so that the animals can run free, although she... (full context)