Themes and Meanings
Independence Day is a penetrating study of the psychological and social forces that mold individual character. In particular, it offers an insightful look at how ordinary individuals adapt to disillusionment and disappointment in their lives.
Early in the novel, Frank Bascombe describes himself as living in what he callsthe Existence Period, the high-wire act of normalcy, the part that comes after the big struggle which led to the big blow-up, the time in life when whatever was going to affect us later’ actually affects us, a period when we go along more or less self-directed and happy, though we might not choose to mention or even remember it later were we to tell the story of our lives, so steeped is such a time in the small dramas and minor adjustments of spending quality time simply with ourselves.
Frank, though, has yet to accept the compromises that distinguish the Existence Period, and this precipitates a kind of midlife crisis. He is shackled by memories to a past that was more stable and full of promise, and this hinders his ability to establish fulfilling relationships with family and friends in the present.
Frank’s situation is mirrored in the experiences of other characters in the novel. His son, Paul, longs for a past free of the tragic losses that have dismantled the Bascombe family. His efforts to monitor the ups and downs of life and bring them under control have overwhelmed his fifteen-year-old coping strategies. Joe and Phyllis Markham likewise cling to an outdated version of the American Dream. Their discouragement with the real-estate listings Frank shows them is a commentary on the gap between hopes and realities in contemporary middle America.
Ford uses the Independence Day weekend as unifying metaphor in the novel. All the characters seek an independence from the past that will allow it continuance with, rather than control of, their present.