Themes

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 511

One of the main themes of Bridge of Sighs is the somewhat fatalistic view that people cannot change. The young characters of this story, Lucy, Bobby, and Sarah, watch their parents in disgust as they expose their weaknesses and pledge never to be like them, yet these same characters seem trapped into doing quite the opposite. As they reflect on their lives in their later years, they see that they are more like their parents than they ever imagined they would become. The same inflictions from which their parents suffered—the qualities that made them either hate their parents or turn away from them in disgust—are deeply imbedded inside them, too. From his father’s “doofus smile” to living his life partially distracted as if caught in a dream, Lucy recognizes his father’s weaknesses and strengths that have come home to roost inside him. Bobby, like the father he hated all his life for not loving his mother, never finds love. Sarah, whose parents divorce because they are so diametrically opposed to one another they cannot find common ground, denies her natural attraction to Bobby and marries Lucy instead, settling for comfort, much like Sarah's mother does in her second marriage. The patterns repeat themselves, Russo’s story reveals, from parent to child.

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Another theme is that of parallel lives. Lucy often falls under a spell that is never fully explained. The spell puts him in a state of mind that is neither in this world nor completely out of it. It is somewhat akin to being conscious in a dream. As an adult, Lucy reflects on these spells and feels that he is living parallel lives—one that he attempts to record in the memoir he is writing and another in which details are changed, such as one in which his father does not die. Sarah and Bobby also have parallel lives, Lucy believes. In one of them, Sarah and Bobby fulfill their love by marrying one another.

Russo also points out class distinction and the lines that are drawn across Thomaston, where the poor and disadvantaged live in one part of town, and the dangers that exist when these people attempt to cross those lines. This is especially made clear in the beating of the black child called Mock Three when he and Sarah go on a date to a movie when they are in middle school. Mock Three is beaten while all the other kids stand around watching, no one doing anything to stop it. There are other fights, but this is the most brutal.

Living in a small town as opposed to living in the city or even moving around the world to Europe is also explored. What difference does it make to the people who live in these different environments? Are their lives so different? Russo’s novel seems to say that they aren’t. People still have to face themselves, no matter where they live. They still have to make a living and still have to find their passion and reason for living.

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Characters