These are a few of my favorite things: #30 (Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Conell)
Mrs. Bridge by Evan Connell is the story of India Bridge n her married life. The story is told in form of vignettes/snapshots from events in her daily life rather than as one long continuous narrative. All the vignettes show how she interacts with her children, her husband, her Domestic Help n her Social Circle n thus draw her character sketch for the readers, one episode at a time. This makes the book different n interesting n a very breezy read.
I found India Bridge’s character fascinating in that I’m always incredulous that some people are actually like her .. she lives to please others. What will others think is her prime guide in doing anything. Even in something as personal as reading books. She doesn’t have any particular taste in books but reads whatever happens to be popular in the circles within which she moves n the purpose for reading books is so that she can talk about them with others!
Her character is brought out in several episodes in the novel, like when she gets upset at her son Douglas ‘cos he actually uses the expensive napkins which she keeps to impress her guests, they are meant only for show off n not for actual use, or when she advises her daughter to carry a purse instead of stuffing things in her pocket ‘cos all ladies are supposed to carry a purse. Her behavior strikes looks at times absurd, at times amusing & even hilarious.
She is also not very sure what she wants from her life n is in a state of perpetual confusion. On one hand she has too much free time n is at a loss as to how to pass that time, n yet she finds herself very busy when she wants to do something for herself like learning Spanish. Also she can’t do away with her cleaning woman though she could very well have constructively engaged in managing her home so as to avoid boredom of having too much time n not really having anything to do.
In my own life individuality, freedom n authenticity have been the prime values. I have an inner locus of control. I think over everything from the reference of my own values. Whether it be my decision to remain child-free or not to pursue a career outside my home or choosing to be Agnostic n Buddhist rather than follow the religion I was born into, never following religious rituals, not watching Cricket (the most popular sport in India) even when it’s an Indo-Pak match (and everyone insists on talking about anything else when such a match is on), not buying expensive jewelry or expensive anything,using a very basic mobile (no smart phone) n camera, etc. all my decisions are made after long careful reflection on my own values n to please myself rather than others. I also have the ‘courage’ to be vocal about my contrarian choices, be it online or in close relationships in my life. After my marriage a friend of my DH hinted that I should remove the article on child-freedom from my blog ‘cos it gave a wrong impression of me as a woman and as a wife!! & I was like, helloooooooo this is giving very much the right impression of me as a woman ‘cos that is who I am, take it or leave it. I also remember a married friend who had to quit job being literally afraid to break the news to her parents ‘cos her parents believed pursuing a career was the only right path for her. Again I never have any problem in breaking any such news to my near n dear ones,’cos my life, my rules, my way, as simple as that. Why should you be having any problem with my decisions as long as I’m not hurting you or interfering in your life a your happiness?!
Now coming back to Mrs. Bridge…her character reminded me a lot of Peter Keating from Ayn Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead, which is one of my most favorite books of all times. Peter Keating like Mrs. Bridge lives to please others. Peter Keating is a conformist who lives for fame, always seeking approval from others, always doing what would look good to others & not what he actually wants: He wanted to be a painter but became an architect instead; He loved Cathy but married Dominique because Dominique is more beautiful & sophisticated & hence a better wife to impress the world; he rises in the profession by flattery, manipulation, lying, cheating n even near-murder. “Always be what people want you to be,” is his motto. He is what he is because of others, he depends on others for his identity.(As opposed to the protagonist of the novel Howard Roark who neither cares about what others think of him nor spends much time thinking about others)
Mrs. Bridge’s social life is what Guy Debord refers as ‘Society of Specatle’.Debord argues that the history of social life can be understood as “the decline of being into having, and having into merely appearing.” People are becoming more n more interested not in who they actually are but in how they appear to others, much like Peter Keating n Mrs. Bridge.
You can read the book here:
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