Student Question

What changes does Matthew refer to when he says "Everything happened to him. We were all of us changed through him" in "Bridge of Clay"?

"Let me tell you about our brother. The fourth Dunbar boy named Clay. Everything happened to him. We were all of us changed through him." (Page 9, "Bridge of Clay")

Expert Answers

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The Dunbar brothers are changed through Clay because he works to repair the trauma of their past and helps to connect them to each other and to some kind of happier future. He does this by reconnecting with his father and sharing the truth about his mother with them.

After Penny died and Michael left his sons, they had the trauma of losing both of their parents; it wasn't something that Matthew, Rory, Henry, or Tommy are able to cope with mentally. Even though Clay was also holding on to his own pain—notably from helping his mother end her life when her suffering was too great—he also decided to try to mend things with his father when Michael came to ask for help.

One way he does this is by building a bridge with his estranged father. The two men understand each other better and Clay works to share this understanding with his brothers. He's also able to share the truth that haunts him about his role in his mother's death. His brothers are slowly able to have a better understanding of their parents and to reconnect with their father. This helps them to be happier and stronger people. They heal largely through Clay's actions.

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