Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Cut the Girl Some Slack

Mrs. Bridge by Evans Connell is the wife’s version of a pre-World War II marriage.  The couple live in Kansas City where her husband is a workaholic attorney and her life is centered on their three children and the country club.

When Mr. Bridge proposes to her, he promises she will have an easy life with every luxury, and he keeps his word a little too well. There’s no real communication between these two. Mrs. Bridge tries now and again but Mr. Bridge discourages it. She doesn't know how to talk to him, and he discourages it.  
Neither has been trained to be intellectually curious. They enter into the marriage with a set ideal of how their lives should play out and never vary from it. No room is left for individual growth or development or their relationship.

Mrs. Bridge has a full time housekeeper and a laundress. Once the children are grown, she finds her life is empty. She has nothing to fill her time and feels lost. 

Others in her social circle are also caught in this void. The most progressive thinker winds up committing suicide. Mrs. Bridge hides the cause of death from her family and only discusses it superficially with her other close women friends.

Although these characters live in the central part of the country, they are  isolated from the less attractive aspects of American life beyond upper their own country club set. As a young adult, Mrs. Bridge does volunteer work handing out used clothing to the poor, but wears gloves. Symbolically, she’s out of touch with the world.

Upon hearing that World War II is approaching, one of her friends remarks she hopes the war won’t last long and take too many of the young men. It isn't the loss of life that worries her but rather the concern there won't be enough men available for her grocer to employ a delivery man. 

This novel of manners is heart wrenching and thought provoking It was particularly amusing and endearing to read how this highly structured woman struggles with rearing a boy.  

Mrs. Bridge is a sympathetic character. She was raised to be a good person, wife and mother and does her best to follow the dictates of her world. It takes way more gumption to go against the standards of our social group than most of us have. It’s really too bad this well-meaning, superficial woman is pretty much smothered by the expectations of others.

It’s almost enough to make me grateful for housework, yard work, laundry and errands. The emphasis was on “almost”.