The Bridges of Madison County

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

At the center of this short novel is a love story of classic simplicity and familiarity. Francesca is forty-five, married with two teenaged children; Robert Kincaid is fifty-two, divorced, an artist, a traveling loner, calling himself “the last of the cowboys.” Meeting at the right time and place, they cautiously accept their love at first sight, and within the four days they are able to spend together, they fulfill each other spiritually and physically. They then sacrifice their physical intimacy, to preserve her family and, probably, their sanity, never meeting again. But what they have made together lives on, defining and directing their lives.

Set mainly in 1965 near Winterset, Iowa, the birthplace of John Wayne, the novel still is much like a western, with perhaps a touch of irony. The stranger comes to town, bringing with him values the town cannot appreciate but that are fundamental, and he wins the heart of the exotic woman whose true powers are unrealized in town or family. Though Francesca is a well-rounded character, Waller tends to focus more on Kincaid, on assignment from NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC to do a photo story about the covered bridges of Madison County. Kincaid is a mythic figure, the Camel-smoking shaman, peregrine, animal/man, but the gentleman, with his hormones under control, aware of himself as obsolete in a culture that requires conformity and distrusts magic and imagination.

Waller’s storytelling is multilayered and sophisticated, helping to make believable a tale in which people often talk as if they had composed their speeches in advance.

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Bridges of Madison County was a publishing phenomenon. Initially released with little fanfare, at first it grew in popularity by...

(The entire section is 786 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Bridges of Madison County seems to provoke controversy whenever it is discussed. Passions and tempers flair as critics and fans...

(The entire section is 317 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Bridges of Madison County is slight enough as a novel and compressed enough in plot that there is very little overt social...

(The entire section is 548 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Bridges of Madison County clearly falls within the romance genre; it is a love story pure and simple. And it has all of the...

(The entire section is 418 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Robert Waller's subsequent two novels did not repeat the phenomenal success of his first even though both books, Slow Waltz in Cedar...

(The entire section is 364 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

There was something of a scramble in Hollywood to put out a movie of The Bridges of Madison County in order to capitalized on the...

(The entire section is 327 words.)