By: Gerojames Cobol
Mrs. Bridge; a Great Mother
Author: Evan S. Connell
Mrs. Bridge has her husband ‘Mr. Bridge’ – and her three children, Ruth, Carolyn and Douglas. Her children threaten Mrs. Bridge’s equilibrium, as in the extraordinary scenes where Douglas, like Jocelin in Golding’s The Spire, begins to build an enormous tower from scrap in the family garden: a metaphor for the everyday tragedy of children growing away from their parents’ reach. As Ruth grows away from her as children must Mrs. Bridge wonders, “Are you mine? Is my daughter mine?” A quietly devastating portrayal of a housewife shorn of all personality or free will, raising her typical kids in a typical Midwestern breadbasket under the aegis of her all-powerful husband (who has a sequel in which to express his own typicality). The effect is similar to the poetic melodrama of The Book of Disquiet, but with a more lightly mocking and tender-heartedly sympathetic tone, and less insufferable moaning posing as philosophical profundity.
The central focus of Evan Connell’s Mrs. Bridge is the protagonist’s uncertainty about her own identity and about the meaning and purpose of her life. The first sentences of the book, linked to the epigraph from Walt Whitman, establish this emphasis: “Her first name was India, she was never able to get used to it. It seemed to her that her parents must have been thinking of someone else when they named her.” In her own eyes, and in those of the narrator of Connell’s novel, from the start of the book she is “Mrs.” Bridge, wife of the successful lawyer Walter Bridge, mother of his three children Ruth, Carolyn, and Douglas Bridge and a typical female member of her upper-middle-class circle in Kansas City, Missouri. Depending for her identity upon the stability of the social milieu in which she lives, Mrs. Bridge, as her way of life and the values of her class come under fire in the two decades before World War II, experiences boredom, a sense of purposelessness, and eventually even a vaguely terrifying sense of isolation.
There are so many examples of Connell’s brilliant character bites that it’s difficult to come up with a representative few that can illustrate. These tidbits did not constitute a plot, but they were interesting enough in their own right to keep the narrative lively. Characters other than Mrs. Bridge were profiled, too, including her family, servants and friends.
In the novel’s short, themed chapters, there are occasionally flashes of Saki’s dark, abrupt wit. At one point, we find Mr. and Mrs. Bridge discussing a former neighbor’s child, Tarquin, who seems to have got up to no good in a manner that has made the local newspaper headlines. They remark that they knew he was a “bad sort” when they heard him calling his parents by their middle name. Only at the end of the chapter are we casually informed that the no good he has got up to is shooting both his parents dead. Later, it seems Mrs. Bridge is finally getting in touch with the sadness she feels about the lack of physical warmth in her marriage and, with great effort, prepares to speak to Walter about it. When he arrives home that night, before he has chance to speak, he announces “I see you forgot to have the car lubricated” and we never hear of the matter again.
Mrs. Bridge is the wife of a successful Kansas City attorney and the mother of three children. The book is a series of short chapters set between the wars we learn about her life. Mrs. Bridge yearns for a life of meaning, of something to do besides attends teas and dinner parties. At times, she comes close to giving herself permission to experience life, but she never quite manages to do so. She is in the midst of an existential crisis, although she would have no idea what that term means. Mrs. Bridge is both devastating and maddening, as we watch her come so close to making something of herself.
Arts and Delivery
The book has its share of dramatic events, but nearly all of them happen “offstage,” with the characters describing what happened or trying to piece together what has gone on. Most of the narrative and dialogue focus on everyday tasks, rainy days, and small talk. Weirdly, this novel reminds me of the nonfiction Love, Loss, and What I Wore, which is not nearly as polished or as powerful but has a similar sense of detachment.
This book is such a pleasure to read that it took me a second reading to realize how enviously brilliant the writing is. EVERYTHING is ironic! Another reader said it’s amazing that a book can be such a tragedy when nothing tragic appears to happen. The author used descriptive text to further give more heart fell scenarios in the story. I like the font’s type and size. However, I being confuse of its cover because it’s not portraying to the story. The girl in the photo is smiling and the whole story is full of tragedy. It’s doesn’t make sense, in the one hand; it’s good if the whole family puts in the cover of the book.
There was a wonderful sense of the minutiae of daily living and of time passing along in tiny driblets but also a real sense of frustration that Mrs. Bridge was never able to articulate the little disappointments of her life. I want to give one perfect star for the author for his memorable fiction story. I enjoy reading the story as even I vastly scan it because I am in the deadline of submission on the book review.