Independence Day Additional Summary

Richard Ford


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Frank Bascombe is a real estate agent, divorced and living away from his children. Over the long holiday weekend, he is trying to sell a house to a difficult couple, as he worries over his personal relationship with his girlfriend, Sally Caldwell. He is also trying to connect with his fifteen-year-old son, Paul, who has gotten into trouble. Bascombe’s plan is a trip to the basketball and baseball halls of fame, a father and son weekend together.

Bascombe is trying to collect rent on a pair of houses he owns near his hometown of Haddam, New Jersey, where he lives in his former wife’s old house. He had moved here when his former wife Ann, remarried—to Charlie O’Dell—and moved with him to Connecticut. Bascombe bought her house so their children would feel some stability, especially since they no longer live in the same town as their father. He is especially worried about Paul, who has been arrested for shoplifting and for a physical confrontation with a security guard, which Paul blames on surprise rather than malevolence. Ann has sent Paul to a therapist, worried about his behavior, which is oddly distant and full of worrisome behavior, including making dog-barking sounds.

Bascombe has no luck collecting the overdue rent; in fact, he is threatened by his renter. He turns to his next task—taking Joe and Phyllis Markham to look at potential houses to buy. They have already looked at dozens of houses and are nearing a breaking point. They are interested in moving from Vermont, looking for an area to raise their daughter, but they cannot afford the home they dream of and are unhappy with the places they have seen in their price range. Bascombe arrives to pick them up, and Joe is surly and angry, dressed inappropriately for going out in public. Bascombe takes them to see one more house: a beautiful home that has just gone on the market. It has one flaw—forming the property’s back boundary is the wall of a minimum-security, country-club-style prison. After arguing with Joe, who essentially fires Bascombe, Bascombe returns to check on his overdue renter. A neighbor calls the police, believing Bascombe is trying to break into the house.

Bascombe leaves for one final errand. He has to stop by a root beer stand he owns, to check on plans to sell hotdogs on Independence Day. His employee insists...

(The entire section is 954 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Independence Day marks a new stage of the career of Richard Ford, winning, as it did, both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. On the surface, Independence Day is deceptively simple: A divorced father takes his son on a trip to several sports halls of fame, the son suffers eye damage that may be permanent, and the father returns home to ponder his experiences. In reality, the novel is a re-creation of an age-old mythic quest. In this case, it is the establishment of communication between the father and son and an internal journey on the part of the protagonist to find himself, confront his demons, and move into a new phase of his life. Bascombe, the sportswriter of the book by that name, has become a real estate agent. Nearing fifty years of age, he has entered a period of life that he refers to as “the Existence Period,” in which he measures every act, every meeting with another person, every idea in his mind as if life depended upon it. He is a good man, an affable man, although he might seem to many as a failure: He is divorced, his children live with his former wife, and he has moved from career to career without any marked sign of progress in his life.

Like Walker Percy’s Binx Bolling in The Moviegoer (1961) and John Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom, Frank is an existential protagonist, seeking to find meaning in his life in a world that seems meaningless. Yet unlike those characters, Frank is an agnostic, finding no solace in any religious belief. He ponders the fact that human beings are generally unhappy, without knowing why, and that free will is restricted to the degree that people “can live with the consequences” of their deeds. In the Existence phase of his life, Frank believes that everything is “limited or at least underwritten by” the simple fact of existence. Because all that human beings know is subject to change and finally destruction, he believes that human actions can be judged only by how practical they are and what their consequences may be. Whatever his situation, Frank believes, a man must persist, shedding from his life that which is nonessential, relying on “common sense, resilience, good cheer.”

As a realistic real estate...

(The entire section is 913 words.)


(Novels for Students)

Chapter 1
Independence Day begins early on a Friday morning on the Fourth of July weekend in 1988, in Haddam, New...

(The entire section is 2909 words.)