Aside from its literary substance, Connell tells the tale of Walter Bridge in a rather odd way. The novel is a series of vignettes containing comparatively little inner life of the character. It’s almost as if Connell is experimenting with Eliot’s objective correlative, letting the character’s actions and words speak for themselves with almost no authorial intrusion. In this manner, he covers a couple of decades of the life of a strait-laced, puritanical lawyer and pillar of Kansas City society. He reminds me of Sinclair Lewis‘s Babbitt, a man of no culture, conservative politics, entirely subsumed by his law practice. He has a wife and three children–two girls and a boy–a dutiful wife, a live-in cook and housekeeper, and an arid intellectual life.
The most interesting aspects of that life happen when his children go astray (though they never go all that far astray) and he’s forced to deal with matters of sex and corruption. He has his own petty temptations–such as a subterranean sexual attraction to his older daughter–but he has little trouble forcing them underground. Aside from these internal onslaughts, he has no real problems remaining unchanged inside his middle class Republican castle despite attacks from the great depression, FDR, rumors of war, the glories of great art, music, and literature, or any other influences from above or below. It would take the axes of ISIS to destroy his smug materialistic philosophy.
I read that this, and it’s companion, Mrs. Bridge are regarded as modern classics. Walter’s wife seems even more dull than he. I admire Connell’s writing, and admit that he succeeds admirably at the task he gave himself of portraying a dull man in an unconventional manner. Given that his mousey wife seems even less entertaining than he, however, I doubt I’ll bring her into my harem.