Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
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.
Covering a period from the early 1920’s to the early 1940’s, with an emphasis on the last ten years of this period, Mrs. Bridge presents the action as a series of 117 episodes from the life of the title character and not as a unified, symmetrical plot. Connell’s introduction of Mrs. Bridge compresses her first thirty-five years of life into the three pages of the first two episodes, and in it he...
(The entire section is 1066 words.)
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